Grandmother went to great lengths in 2006 to find daughter, grandson

Seeta Khadan-Newton was doing everything she could to get her daughter and grandson back.

She contacted city police reporting the pair missing in April 2006. When they were found living with a little known ministry in East Baltimore, she sued for custody of the infant. While that case languished in Circuit Court she begged for help.

“Please,” she said in handwritten letter to a Circuit Court judge, “my grandson is now 18 months old and I fear for his and my daughter’s safety. You see they are in a cult. … Judge, I am so scared for my family.”

At some point, some members of the group left the city, and the boy, Javon Thompson, disappeared again.

In February, city homicide detectives received a tip that the infant might have been killed in Baltimore two years ago. Police are investigating whether remains found in a shed behind a Philadelphia house are those of Javon.

They have not positively identified the body, but a medical examiner ruled that the child was killed.

Police would reveal no details about the investigation.

While in Baltimore, Javon and his mother, Ria Reshma-Ramkissoon, spent most of the their time with a religious group known as 1 Mind Ministries, according to family members.

The handful of people identified in court records as being associated with the group had ambitious plans to launch businesses all over the city including a clothing line called J.C. Apparel with the slogan “Don’t be shamed to rock his name, Jesus Christ!” according to state records.

But according to court records, the group also referred to some members with royalty honorifics such as queen and princess, wore all white and eschewed health care – they are accused in court papers of insisting that a pregnant woman give birth without access to doctors.

Members of 1 Mind could not be reached for comment.

Khadan-Newton, who was living in Northwest Baltimore, knew nothing about the group in April 2006 when her daughter and grandson went missing the first time. Her daughter had told her that she was out looking for child care. When she didn’t come back, Khadan-Newton called the police and filed a missing persons report on them.

Officers found the pair in East Baltimore. They reported that Ria Reshma-Ramkissoon “was safe,” and that the boy was “in good condition,” according to a police report. That part of the report is not dated. A month later, Khadan-Newton filed a suit in Circuit Court asking the judges to give her custody of her grandson.

In November that year, after the courts efforts to serve summonses to Reshma-Ramkissoon were stymied, Khadan-Newton wrote a letter to Judge Audrey J.S. Carrion.

“I am getting a lot of runaround from the court clerk,” she wrote. “I haven’t seen or heard from my daughter since April. … 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.”

The court continued to send notices to 318 N. Robinson St., the same address listed for 1 Mind Ministries. Neighbors said the group consisted of a man, a woman, several adolescent girls and two or three babies. They said the group kept to themselves and wore mainly white.

In the letter to the Circuit Court judge, Khadan-Newton identified the ministry’s female leader as Queen Antoinette, but said the woman uses other names, including Toni Ellsberry. The leader’s daughter is known as “Princess Travia” but also uses aliases, she wrote.

Khadan-Newton said in the letter she was afraid for her family because she had heard about another young woman in the ministry who became pregnant but was never permitted to see a doctor.

“She had to have the baby in the house and it was never reported,” she wrote. Then, she wrote, the mother was banned from the house, but the ministry would not give up the child. “She took a police to go get them,” she wrote. “It got very ugly to where the streets were blocked off and the police had to call for back[up],” she wrote.

Court records show that four people were arrested in October 2006 at the ministry’s address. Police came there to settle a custody dispute, records show.

When police went into the house to check on the child, several officers were pushed and grabbed, and at one point a person in the house, Trevia Williams, said, “You are not taking the child,” according to the police records. The four people arrested were Queen Antoinette, Steven Bynum, Marcus Cobbs and Trevia Williams. They skipped court dates last spring, and there are still open warrants for their arrest.

Bynum was the male leader of the ministry when it was in Baltimore, according to his former employer, King’s Security Detective Agency in West Baltimore.

Baha Wali, a manager with that firm, said that Bynum and Ellsberry (also known as Queen Antoinette) were a couple, and that Bynum worked as a security guard for his company until about two years ago.

Wali said he remembered Bynum as a religious man who didn’t talk much about the 1 Mind Ministry, and that he thought Ellsberry was “very weird” and “gave off bad vibes.”

“He never discussed [the ministry] with me because he knew that I wasn’t in favor of it,” said Wali, who emphasized that his company had no formal connection to the ministry. Wali said he wasn’t sure where Bynum is now or whether he is still with Ellsberry. The last he had heard, Bynum was living in New York City, he said.

The ministry and people connected to it incorporated a number of businesses in the state, including Suite 4 Kings, a multibusiness plaza that was to include a carwash, restaurant, cleaners, barber shop and men’s clothing and shoe stores.

It is not clear how many, if any, of these ventures became a reality. Many of them are registered to an address used by the Franciscan Center, a soup kitchen and emergency services shelter in lower Charles Village.

Deacon Seigfried Presberry, the center’s operations manager, said that Ellsberry had not come by the center in a while and was no longer in their registry. He remembered that she used to come between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. That was the only service she used, he said.

“She never asked for no tokens, no food, nothing, “Presberry said. He said that Ellsberry sometimes came to the center with other younger woman. “Sometimes they would come up – sometimes they would wait out in the alley,” Presberry said.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday May 3, 2008.
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