BALTIMORE - A cult leader convicted of fatally starving a toddler for not saying "Amen" after meals was sentenced to 50 years in prison Tuesday.
Queen Antoinette was sentenced by a judge who described her as a manipulator of lost souls. Her daughter, Trevia Williams, and a fellow cult member, Marcus Cobbs, were each given concurrent 25-year sentences for second-degree murder and child abuse, with all but 15 years on one count suspended.
Judge Timothy Doory said the death of 16-month-old Javon Thompson was mystifying and that the three fit the legal definition of "depraved-heart" crimes in that they didn't care, and knew they didn't care, about the consequence of their actions.
Javon's body was found in a suitcase in Philadelphia in 2008, more than a year after his death in Baltimore. The child's mother, 23-year-old Ria Ramkissoon, is in a residential treatment program for young women as part of an unusual plea bargain in which her plea will be withdrawn if the child is resurrected, as she believes will happen.
Doory saved his harshest comments for the cult leader, saying, "You were the collector of people, of lost souls, and in the name of religion you have manipulated them."
Doory told Antoinette she had expressed no remorse and was most concerned about the description of her group as a cult. Antoinette told the judge before sentencing that she did not have any remorse because she was not guilty.
"I don't, 'cause I'm not guilty of what I've been accused of," Antoinette said, adding "the truth will eventually come out, however long it takes."
Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Antoinette to the maximum 60 years on second-degree murder and child-abuse charges, plus 50 years for Williams and 40 for Cobbs.
All three represented themselves, and again refused attorneys before sentencing, spending about an hour reviewing pre-sentencing reports in the courtroom while other cases were handled. Williams and Cobbs gave short and rambling statements before sentencing, saying they disagreed with various items in the reports but did not want to contest them.
Doory told Cobbs and Williams he was not without hope they could change but also ordered that they not have contact with unrelated minors or group members after their sentences are completed.
Ramkissoon's mother appeared at sentencing, telling the judge she became a "walking zombie" after the death of her grandson, not able to eat.
Prosecutors said Antoinette told Ramkissoon that denying food would cure the boy's rebellious spirit. The mother admitted denying food and water to the child, who wasted away over the course of a week.