A stroke victim who believed a faith healing could help her walk again tearfully recounted yesterday a tale of torture and cruelty in a bizarre church ritual.
From her wheelchair, Charmaine Babb, 34, told a rapt Brooklyn jury how a pastor and his wife sliced her feet and set them afire while her husband watched.
The young mother – whose left leg was amputated afterward – described being stranded in unchanged diapers, crawling on the floor, as her cut and scratched left foot became infected during nine days of captivity at the Great Deliverance Spiritual Baptist Church in Crown Heights.
Deprived of water and food for days as congregants sang and prayed, she described her “morning ritual” with the Rev. Junior Mitchell, his wife, Desrein, and her husband, Curtis Babb. All three are on trial at Brooklyn Criminal Court in the June 2002 assault and face up to 15 years if convicted.
Babb had sought out the Mitchells at the suggestion of her husband, a church deacon, after she suffered a stroke in 1998 during childbirth.
With congregants singing and praying, the trio exhorted her to walk, but she kept falling, she said. Junior Mitchell then sliced both her feet with a razor blade, bled them, covered them with hot wax and put a flame to them. Then, “Mother Mitchell” came with a broom made out of a coconut tree, she said.
“I felt my flesh burning,” Babb said. “She started hitting me with the broom. She took my legs and stretched them over my head seven times each.”
On the fifth day, Curtis Babb propped her in a chair and left. She was unable to move, she said.
“All my foot was blistered around it,” she wept. “They were singed and black. Some flies were buzzing around. I couldn’t chase them away because I could not lift my foot.”
After nine days, Junior Mitchell told her she could leave, she said, but then deserted her. She heard a social worker from a rehabilitation center she had attended leaving a message on the church answering machine looking for her, but she couldn’t reach it.
“I started feeling worse and worse,” she said. “I rang a bell. Nobody came. I keep ringing it, but nobody came. I couldn’t yell, I had no voice. I just sat there.”
Paramedics found her later, disoriented, dehydrated and sitting in her own waste.
As Babb struggled to control her tears, prosecutor Paul Hirsch asked whether she had been able to shuffle with a walker when she first left the rehabilitation center on June 9, 2002, for her spiritual healing quest with the Mitchells.
“Yes,” she said.
“Can you do that now, Charmaine?” he asked.
“No,” wept Babb, sobbing into a handkerchief.
July 15, 2004
Nancie L. Katz, Daily News Staff Writer