BALTIMORE—Relatives of a Baltimore woman whose toddler son disappeared after she joined a small religious organization two years ago are now awaiting word on whether a body found in a suitcase behind a South Philadelphia rowhouse belongs to the boy.
Police in Baltimore and Philadelphia have said they are investigating to determine whether the remains, discovered Monday, are those of Javon Thompson, who was about 18 months old when he was first reported missing in April 2006. The body has not been positively identified, but a medical examiner ruled that the child was a homicide victim.
Court documents show that the boy’s grandmother, Seeta Khadan-Newton, made extensive efforts to recover him. Khadan-Newton sued for custody of the boy after his mother, Ria Reshma-Ramkissoon, was found to be living with a little-known ministry in east Baltimore.
“Please,” Khadan-Newton wrote in a letter to a Circuit Court judge. “my grandson is now 18 months old and I fear for his and his daughter’s safety. You see they are in a cult.”
After getting a tip in February, Baltimore police contacted Khadan-Newton and told her that the child was probably dead, said another daughter, Colleen Khadan.
“I am hoping that it is not Javon, and that maybe (the group) gave him away to someone and he is alive,” Khadan told the Philadelphia Daily News. “It’s kind of foolish, maybe, to be hoping that, but I still hope that even though my heart tells me differently.”
Khadan said Reshma-Ramkissoon, now 20, was a doting and responsible mother before she began spending time with the group known as 1 Mind Ministries.
According to court records, group members wore all white, swore off medical care and referred to some members with titles including queen and princess, The (Baltimore) Sun reported. The group was also accused of insisting that a pregnant woman give birth without access to doctors, the documents show.
The Sun could not reach members of 1 Mind Ministries for comment.
Khadan-Newton initially filed a missing persons report on her daughter and grandson in April 2006 after her daughter told her that she was going out to look for child care and didn’t come back.
Police found the pair in east Baltimore and reported that Reshma-Ramkissoon “was safe” and that the boy was “in good condition,” according to a police report. Khadan-Newton later filed a suit in Circuit Court asking the judges to give her custody of her grandson.
The court tried several times to serve summonses to Reshma-Ramkissoon but was unsuccessful. Khadan-Newton wrote a letter in November 2006 to Judge Audrey J.S. Carrion.
“I haven’t seen or heard from my daughter since April,” Khadan-Newton wrote. “She is forbidden from speaking or having any contact with her family. I have tried many times to call but they, ‘the cult leaders,’ would hang up the phone or say she couldn’t come to the phone.”
Court records show that four people were arrested at the ministry’s address after police came there in October 2006 to settle a custody dispute.
According to the documents, several officers were pushed and grabbed inside the house, and at one point a person identified as Trevia Williams said, “You are not taking the child.” Williams was arrested along with Queen Antoinette, Steven Bynum and Marcus Cobbs, but the four skipped court dates last spring, and there are still open warrants for their arrest.