mom pleads guilty in cult starvation death
BALTIMORE (AP) — A former religious cult member pleaded guilty Monday to starving her 1-year-old son to death after making an unusual deal with prosecutors: If the child is resurrected, her plea will be withdrawn.
Ria Ramkissoon, 22, also agreed to testify against four other members of the now-defunct religious group known as 1 Mind Ministries. All four are charged with first-degree murder in the death of Javon Thompson.
According to a statement of facts, the cult members stopped feeding the boy when he refused to say "Amen" after a meal. After Javon died, Ramkissoon sat next to his decomposing body and prayed for his resurrection.
Ramkissoon's attorney, Steven D. Silverman, said Ramkissoon believes the resurrection will occur. She agreed to plead guilty only after prosecutors said they would drop the charges if the child comes back to life, Silverman said.
"This is something that she absolutely insisted upon, and this is indicative of the fact that she is still brainwashed, still a victim of this cult," he said. "Until she's deprogrammed, she's not going to think any differently."
Baltimore Circuit Judge Timothy J. Doory assured Ramkissoon that the plea would indeed be withdrawn if the child is resurrected.
Ramkissoon pleaded guilty to one count of child abuse resulting in death. She will remain in custody until she testifies against her co-defendants and will receive a suspended 20-year sentence and serve five years probation. Sentencing was scheduled for Aug. 11. By then, Ramkissoon would have spent about a year behind bars.
As part of herprobation, Ramkissoon must submit to treatment, including sessions with an expert on cult behavior.
The maximum sentence for child abuse resulting in death is 30 years, and defendants typically receive between 12 and 20 years, according to Maryland sentencing guidelines.
Ramkissoon will fare much better under than the plea deal than if she had pursued an insanity defense, Silverman said. A court psychiatrist found that she was both competent to stand trial and could have been held criminally responsible for Javon's death because she knew the difference between right and wrong.
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