Woman charged in son’s death appears in court
A woman charged with killing her child was ordered held without bail today during a court proceeding at the Central Booking and Intake Center.
Standing in court with her hands shackled behind her back, Ria Ramkissoon, 21, wore a purple jumpsuit, rocked nervously side to side, and shook her head slightly when Judge Theodore B. Oshrine read the charges against her.
She and four other members of a small group, 1 Mind Ministries, that police have called a religious cult, are accused of abusing and neglecting Ramkissoon’s 21-month-old boy, Javon Thompson. In arguing for the judge to give Ramkissoon bail, her attorney, Steven D. Silverman, said in court today that the woman was being controlled by adults during the period when her son died.
“This is not a clear-cut case of one mother’s cause and the effect of the death,” Silverman said. “You have intervening circumstances. My client was not in control. … I’m convinced in talking to her that she’s been grossly over-charged” by Baltimore police detectives.
But Oshrine, citing the “very serious allegations” and noting that Ramkissoon may pose a flight risk, decided against allowing her to post bail. The group’s leader, Queen Antoinette, 40, as well as Trevia Williams, 21, Marcus Cobbs, 21, and Steven Bynum, 42, all face charges in Thompson’s death. Authorities are still seeking Bynum.
Antoinette and Williams were scheduled to have a bail review today, but they were not brought to court for reasons that were not specified. It was not clear when Cobbs would have his bail review.
City police say Javon died while the group was living in a West Baltimore apartment. After the child’s death in early 2007, the group members placed his body in a green suitcase and, a short time later, traveled to Philadelphia, where they left the luggage with an unsuspecting man who let the group live with him for a week. The group next moved to New York, where they may have lived for several months.
Eventually, Baltimore police — with the help of Philadelphia detectives and authorities in New York City — tracked down the green suitcase and found the boy’s remains. They arrested most of the group in New York and brought them to Baltimore to face murder charges.
Cult Murder Suspect’s Mom: It’s Not Her Fault
They wore all white, refused medical care, referred to themselves with titles such as “Princess” and “Queen,” talked to the walls and attempted to banish demons.
From the moment that Ria Ramkissoon and her baby boy Javon joined the tiny religious cult, 1 Mind Ministries, in April 2006, her life would change irrevocably.
Now, the 21-year-old woman is sitting in the psychiatric unit of a city jail in Baltimore accused by police of slowly starving her son to death and allowing cult members to beat him for disobeying orders such as saying “amen” at meals.
After he stopped breathing in his mother’s arms, they stuffed Javon’s body into a green suitcase, which cult leader “Queen Antoinette” occasionally sprayed with Lysol to cover up the stench, drove to Philadelphia and left the suitcase inside a shed where it sat for a year until police made the gruesome discovery in April, according to a statement of charges.
In total, five members of the cult, including Ramkissoon, have been charged with murder. Three members — Queen Antoinette, Trevia Williams and Marcus Cobbs — are already in jail and federal marshals in the New York area are searching for a fourth member, Steven Bynum.
[Seeta] Khadan-Newton [Ria’s mother] still remembers that fateful day in 2006 when she dropped off her daughter and grandson at a house in West Baltimore, assuming that a babysitter lived there to take care of the boy while Ramkissoon went to school.
“They told me not to come back to get her because they would drive her home. When I called later that day, I left a message, and I never heard from her. Javon was only 7 months old,” recalled the 59-year old native of Trinidad.
Khadan-Newton says she spent the next two years trying to rescue her daughter and grandson, contacting the police and social services, but claims that cult members would ignore the court papers sent to the home.
The group’s practices were notorious in their neighborhood where local residents recalled the shouting and screaming that would come from their home.
Cult experts contacted by ABCNews.com were unfamiliar with the group.
Khadan-Newton says she only found out about Javon’s death when one of the cult member’s sisters was committed to a mental institution and contacted her parents about the child’s murder.
She insists that her daughter was also a victim and was coerced into starving Javon. “The leader of the cult — Queen Antoinette — made the decision. She was the one that said, ‘Do not feed him,’ and would beat Javon and put him in a back room.”
The child was denied food and water and became thin with dark circles under his eyes, according to a statement of charges filed by Detective Vernon Parker. When he stopped breathing, cult members were instructed to pray around Javon’s body, according to Parker.
“The Queen told everyone that ‘God was going to raise Javon from the dead,'” according to the document. “That resurrection never took place.”