Mableton couple charged in death of 8-year-old son

MABLETON, Ga. – A Mableton couple have been charged in the death of their 8-year-old son, and investigators said they now plan to re-examine the previous death of another son.

Joseph L. Smith, 44, and his wife, Sonya Smith, 36, were being held without bond Tuesday at Cobb County Jail. They were arrested after State Crime Lab tests revealed their son Josef Mykel died two months ago from blunt force trauma.

Gwen Shamblin Connection

The Smith’s are members of Gwen Shamblin‘s Remnant Fellowship which, theologically, is a cult of Christianity. Sociologically the group has cultic characteristics as well.

Emergency crews were called to the Smiths’ home in early October after the couple reported Josef was having trouble breathing, said Cobb police spokesman Cpl. Brody Staud. The boy died at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite on Oct. 9.

Investigators at the time found “visible injuries,” including signs the boy had been whipped, but no indication of internal injuries, Staud said. Based on the injuries, Joseph and Sonya Smith were charged with felony child cruelty.

The couple had been out on bond but were arrested Monday, this time on murder charges.

Investigators are now re-examining the August death of the couple’s other son, 18-month-old Milek Jonah. Milek apparently died of pneumonia, though the Cobb medical examiner’s office has not assigned a cause of death.

Staud said there was nothing to suggest foul play but investigators “will be looking at it again,” he said.

Department of Family and Children Services spokeswoman Renee Huie said officials had received a complaint in May saying one of the children had been acting strangely.

“That report did not contain an allegation of abuse or neglect and we did not accept that for investigation, which is standard practice,” she said, adding the family was referred for counseling.

Joseph and Sonya Smith’s two other children were taken into DFCS custody after Josef’s death, she said.

A judge set a bond hearing for the couple for Dec. 15.

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Associated Press, USA
Dec. 10, 2003

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday December 11, 2003.
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