A Baltimore jury on Tuesday afternoon convicted three alleged cult members on charges of first-degree child abuse resulting in death and second-degree murder for starving a 16-month-old boy in their city apartment because he did not say “amen” before meals.
Prosecutors argued that the defendants showed the “height of maliciousness” in not feeding Javon Thompson as punishment, even if they never intended the boy’s death, which happened slowly and painfully over days.
The defendants — 41-year-old Toni Sloan, who goes by “Queen Antoinette,” her daughter, Trevia Williams, 22; and Marcus Cobbs, 23 — each face a maximum of 60 years in prison when they are sentenced, scheduled for May 18. Cobbs was also found guilty of being an accessory after the fact for allegedly helping to cover up Javon’s death.
Antoinette, who is accused of ordering the deprivation that others carried out, had been separately facing life on a first-degree murder charge. But Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Timothy J. Doory dropped that count against her Monday night, prosecutors said, adding that they tried to revisit the issue Tuesday morning.
“The state argued as vociferously as we could,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Julie Drake, chief of the felony family violence division. But Doory declined to reinstate the charge.
The remaining counts were first-degree child abuse resulting in death, second-degree child abuse, second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Cobbs was said to have burned the boy’s bed and measured his small, emaciated body in order to find a suitcase that was big enough to store it.
Their case has drawn national attention because of its bizarre nature. The defendants represented themselves, and they have been accused — by prosecutors and Javon’s grandmother — of belonging to a religious cult that follows the command of Queen Antoinette.
Antoinette said in court that she had rules in her house, but she never forced anyone to do anything.
But Drake told the jury that “the force exerted was psychological, perhaps spiritual,” claiming that Antoinette manipulated people using their fear of eternal damnation. Queen claimed that God spoke to her, and her rules were his rules.
“Queens give orders and she expected to be obeyed,” Drake said.
In a letter written to help establish her burgeoning business, 1 Mind Ministries, as a nonprofit, Antoinette described herself as “a chosen daughter of the most high God and a Queen of Jesus Christ,” Drake said, reading from the document.
On the courthouse steps, minutes after the jury took up its charge Tuesday afternoon, Javon’s maternal grandmother, Seeta Newton, said she was hopeful justice will be done, but she still worries for her daughter.
Ramkissoon has pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death and is awaiting sentencing, expected to be a 20-year suspended term and some kind of inpatient counseling. She’s quiet now, and withdrawn, not the goofy, vibrant daughter Newton remembers.