A Fort Wayne, Indiana woman who forced her 2-year-old son to drink a concoction of olive oil and vinegar because she thought it would exorcise a demon from him has been convicted of murder.
Latisha Lawson also was convicted of neglect and battery charges, the Journal Gazette reported. Jurors deliberated for about five hours Friday before finding her guilty. Lawson faces at least 45 years in prison when she is sentenced next month.
Lawson, 31, forced her two-year-old son Jezaih to drink a vile mixture of olive oil and vinegar as part of a ritual to drive the devil from his body.
As he choked on the liquid she held her hand over his mouth to stop him vomiting and crushed his neck, writes The Telegraph:
She had become convinced that her son was possessed and blamed herself because she did not profess her love for God while she was pregnant.
Lawson and another woman, who also believed her children were possessed, fed the mixture to four children at their home in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Three of the children immediately vomited up the mixture, but Lawson held her hand over her son’s mouth to keep the liquid down.
An autopsy ruled he had died from having his neck compressed.
Police said Lawson kept Jezaih’s body in a plastic sack for more than a year after his November 2009 death until she was arrested on December 21.
Lawson told jurors she was convinced her son was possessed by demons as his behaviour had changed.
A jury of six men and six women deliberated about five hours Friday before finding Lawson guilty of all the charges prosecutors brought against her, the Journal Gazette reports:
She was found guilty of murder, battery causing death and neglect of a dependent causing death concerning her son, as well as neglect of a dependent causing injury, neglect of a dependent and battery for allegedly beating and neglecting her 10-year-old daughter.
Lawson’s dramatic, and consistent, testimony wrapped up the evidence in the four-day trial.
Prosecutors argued Lawson deliberately killed the toddler out of frustration with his tantrums and sleepless nights.
But her attorney said she was obviously under the power of some type of delusion, having given herself over completely to a religious fervor that supplanted reality. [...]
She believed she saw the demon Marzon transform her son’s physical shape. She said she believed the toddler was completely overtaken, and the more information God gave her about the demon, the more changes she saw in her baby son.
Lawson said she believed her son became possessed because of how she lived her life when she was pregnant with him.
“I had no love in my heart for life. I had no love in my heart for God,” she said. “He was pretty much grown in hate.”
She said she knew it was the time to exorcise the demons that affected all in their home because God told her so.
“It wasn’t something I planned,” she said.
Lawson prayed, “pleaded the blood of Jesus” to protect the child’s body so when Marzon came out, the baby would be unharmed.
“I knew and believe I was interacting with a demon at that time,” she said. [...]
After he died, Lawson sought no help and ordered the children not to tell anyone. Instead she and Hawkins put the body on Hawkins’ bed, praying over it, sleeping with it and believing God would bring Jezaih back.
“I went in and just asked God to bring him back,” she said, sobbing. “He did it in the Bible. He did it with Lazarus. He did it with a child in the Bible.”
So great was Lawson’s belief in her son’s soon resurrection, she and Hawkins bought him a small blue hat and a pair of “house shoes” a few months after his death.
Natasha Hawkins, Lawson’s roommate participated in the exorcism, which she also applied to her own children. The Journal Gazette says:
Hawkins has also been charged in connection with Jezaih’s death. In March, prosecutors charged Hawkins with aiding in battery causing death, neglect of a dependent causing death and assisting a criminal, as well as four counts of battery related to her alleged treatment of her own children, according to court documents.
Hawkins is scheduled to stand trial later this year.