Witness: Accused cult leaders had her committed to keep quiet

Woman eventually told N.Y. agency of boy’s starvation, leading to group’s arrest

A woman who once lived with three accused cult leaders testified Thursday that they had her involuntarily committed to a mental hospital to keep her quiet about a toddler’s starvation death.

Danielle Smith, 26, said she tried to alert neighbors to the boy’s food deprivation, which began as punishment for refusing to say “amen” after prayer, but couldn’t because she was not allowed to be alone with outsiders.

She said she left a vague hint scrawled across one wall — the sentence, “We love our children” — before the group put her out of its New York City apartment, where they had moved after the 16-month-old, emaciated child died in Baltimore. A day later, they escorted her to the psychiatric ward of Kings County Hospital Center.

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“The people at the hospital thought I was crazy,” Smith said. Yet, she was able to tell her story to police and a New York child protective agency, where a case worker believed her, leading to the group’s eventual arrest.
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– Source / Full Story: Witness: Accused cult leaders had her committed to keep quiet, Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun, Feb. 15, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

The members of 1 Mind Ministries have elected to represent themselves during their trial.

Smith said Antoinette told her and other household members that if they did not follow her orders, “You would fall away from God and possibly go to hell.”

Asked why she did not feed Javon, Smith said, “I didn’t know what would happen if I did.”

After Javon died, Smith said, Antoinette asked everyone in the house to get on the floor and pray for him to rise from the dead. Ramkissoon testified Wednesday that she still believes Javon will be resurrected.

Smith said she and Ramkissoon were forced to sleep in the same room as Javon’s decomposing body. Antoinette told them they needed to get over their fear for him to be resurrected, she said.

Smith described the same set of rules that Ramkissoon and her sister, Tiffany Smith, who also lived with Antoinette, were told to abide by. The group members wore only white, blue and khaki, destroyed their identification documents, and smoked marijuana, which Antoinette called “God’s weed,” Smith said.

After the group moved to New York, Smith described how she began telling neighbors about Javon’s death and Cobbs had her committed to a psychiatric hospital. After her release, she said, she was treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Smith did not look Antoinette in the eye as the alleged cult leader questioned her, instead addressing her remarks to the jury. After her testimony, she shared a long embrace with Ramkissoon’s mother.

The trial will resume Monday with the state’s final two witnesses, and Baltimore Circuit Judge Timothy J. Doory told jurors he expected them to begin deliberations on Tuesday.
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– Source / Full Story: Former cult member says she feared group’s leader , Ben Nuckols, Assosiated Press via the Beaver County Times, Feb. 25, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday February 26, 2010.
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