2 in cult case denied bail
Two women were ordered held without bail yesterday on charges that they participated in the starvation death of a child whom they considered a “demon” because he wouldn’t say amen after his meals, according to police charging documents.
Standing side by side in court, Queen Antoinette, 40, and Trevia Williams, 21, refused to be represented by city public defenders during their bail review at the Central Booking and Intake Center. Police say Antoinette was the leader of a cult and that Williams was one of her followers; each is charged with first-degree murder.
When asked by District Judge Charlotte M. Cooksey whether she wanted a preliminary hearing, Antoinette asked the judge to explain what happens during one – and then declined it.
“No, no, I don’t want one,” she said. Williams also declined a preliminary hearing. During such a hearing, prosecutors show the probable cause that led to an arrest.
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Taking a break?
Assistant State’s Attorney David C. Chiu said in court that the group’s members likely would follow Antoinette’s lead in the case. “Chances are, the cult members are going to do what she tells them to do,” he said.
Cooksey declined to set bail, noting the potential threat to public safety and their flight risk because they had traveled to several states in recent years.
Outcast set off group’s odyssey
Tiffany Smith, unemployed and seeking help, said she joined 1Mind Ministries on promises of free food and lodging. She became a caretaker – cooking and cleaning for the group, which at its peak numbered 12, including five children, packed inside an East Baltimore rowhouse.
She said members adhered to what they believed was a strict reading of the Old Testament – using honorifics such as “Queen” and “King,” “Prince” and “Princess.”
Outside the house, she said, they were required to move in pairs, even to the corner store. They wore white or deep-blue clothes and did not object to smoking marijuana, calling it “God’s leaf.”
Of their faith, Smith said in an interview yesterday, “They twisted it to fit their life.”
But after 11 months, Smith said, the group’s leader accused her of mistreating the children and kicked her out of the Robinson Street home in October 2006. She left her 1-year-old son and 2-week-old daughter behind.
Her attempts to retrieve her children, helped by a Baltimore police officer, triggered a chain of events that took members of the group to West Baltimore, Pennsylvania, New York and back to Baltimore, where they now face charges of killing 15-month-old Javon Thompson and stuffing his remains in a suitcase that was found this year locked in a shed behind a home in South Philadelphia.
In her interview, Smith said she joined the group because of a promise that she would have free food and lodging, “but it really wasn’t free because they took away your freedom. They suck you into this crazy lifestyle.”
Timeline in Javon Thompson case
April 2006: Ria Ramkissoon moves out of her mother’s house with her 15-month-old son, Javon Thompson.
Oct. 6, 2006: Members of 1Mind Ministries, including Ramkissoon, who are living in a rowhouse on Robinson Street, confront Tiffany Smith, who had left the group and returned with police to get her two children back. Charged with hindering and obstructing police are Marcus Cobbs, Queen Antoinette, Steven Bynum and Trevia Williams. They are released on their own recognizance.
October to January, 2007: 1Mind Ministries moves to Auchentoroly Terrace. It is here, police say, that Javon was killed after he would not say “Amen” after meals. Court documents say his body was put into a green suitcase.
Jan. 30, 2007: Landlord evicts the group from Auchentoroly Terrace.
Feb 13, 2007: Bynum rents a Chevrolet Impala and packs it with belongings, including the green suitcase, and he and five others drive to Philadelphia and check into a Red Roof Inn.
March 16, 2007: Members of the group and two children seek help from Travelers Aid in Philadelphia but are turned down because they refuse to provide identification. Philadelphia police encounter the group, and the Department of Social Services takes away the children.
Mid-March, 2007: Members of the group befriend an elderly man who lets them stay in his apartment for about a week and store their property, including the green suitcase.
Feb. 9, 2008: Ramkissoon’s mother, Seeta Khadan-Newton, travels to Brooklyn, N.Y., to locate her daughter and grandson. After getting no help from her daughter, she returns to Baltimore and contacts authorities. New York City social workers and police investigate.
Feb. 20, 2008: Baltimore homicide detectives learn that Javon Thompson might have been killed in the city after they are contacted by a social worker in New York.
Feb. 22, 2008: Baltimore detectives meet with Khadan-Newton, who tells them about 1Mind Ministries and her missing grandson.
March 19, 2008: A Philadelphia homicide detective locates the children who had been taken away a year ago. The children provide “direct eye-witness accounts relative to the death of Javon Thompson,” according to court documents.
April 28, 2008: Baltimore detectives travel to Philadelphia and talk with the 77-year-old man who had rented to the group for the week. He directs police to a locked shed behind his apartment, where authorities find the green suitcase with the remains of a child.
May 4-5, 2008: Baltimore police travel to Brooklyn, N.Y., to search for members of the ministry. Cobbs, Antoinette and Williams are arrested on charges that they failed to appear in Baltimore court in connection with their arrest in 2006 in the child-custody dispute. Ramkissoon, the child’s mother, is not arrested and returns to Baltimore.
May 19, 2008: Baltimore prosecutors argue in court that the three suspects should be held without bail because they are “persons of interest” in the disappearance of Javon.
June 2, 2008: DNA samples collected from Ramkissoon match the remains found in the green suitcase.
Aug. 9, 2008: Ramkissoon, having been arrested at a homeless shelter in Baltimore, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her son. Antoinette, Cobbs, Williams and Bynum are charged with murder in arrest warrants.
Aug. 12, 2008: Ramkissoon is ordered held without bail. Antoinette and Williams are scheduled to have a bail review today. A bail review for Cobbs has not yet been scheduled. Police are searching for Bynum.