A Maryland woman involved with a group described as a religious cult pleaded guilty in the starvation death of her son, but insisted that the charges be dropped when he is resurrected.
The condition was made a part of Ria Ramkissoon’s plea agreement, officials said. She entered the plea Monday in Baltimore, Maryland, to a first-degree felony count of child abuse resulting in death, her attorney, Steven Silverman, said Tuesday. Ramkissoon, a member of a group called One Mind Ministries, believes Javon Thompson, her year-old son, will rise again, and as part of her plea agreement, authorities agreed to the clause. “She certainly recognizes that her omissions caused the death of her son,” Silverman said. “To this day, she believes it was God’s will and he will be resurrected and this will all take care of itself. She realizes if she’s wrong, then everyone has to take responsibility … and if she’s wrong, then she’s a failure as a mother and the worst thing imaginable has happened. I don’t think that, mentally, she’s ready to accept that.” Under the plea agreement, Ramkissoon, 22, must testify against four other One Mind Ministries members who are also facing charges, including first-degree murder, in Javon’s death. At her sentencing, set for August, she will receive a 20-year sentence, which will be suspended except for the time she has already served behind bars, Silverman said. She must also undergo deprogramming and psychiatric counseling. In court Monday, it was clarified that the “resurrection clause” would apply only in the case of Javon’s actual resurrection — not a perceived reincarnation, Silverman said. “This has never come up in the history of American law, as far as I’ve seen,” Silverman said, adding that the clause was “very important to her.” “On one level, she certainly is competent to stand trial, because she does recognize that as far as her legal entanglements are concerned, this is a grand-slam resolution for her,” Silverman said. “On the other hand, she’s still brainwashed, she’s still delusional as far as the teachings and influence of this cult, and she certainly is going to benefit with professional help and deprogramming.” Ramkissoon and the others are accused of denying Javon food after the group’s leader, a 40-year-old woman who goes by the name Queen Antoinette, decreed the boy was a demon since he refused to say “amen” after meals, Silverman said. “Ria would cling to him every day and try to get him to say ‘amen,’ ” Silverman said. Eventually, Queen Antoinette ordered that Ramkissoon be separated from the child, he said. Javon is believed to have died in December 2006, court documents allege. Following his death, the group members put the boy’s body in a back room, and “everyone was directed to come in and pray,” according to the documents. “The Queen told everyone that ‘God was going to raise Javon from the dead.’ Javon remained in the room for an extended period of time (in excess of one week). The resurrection never took place.” Authorities believe the boy’s body was then placed into a wheeled suitcase along with mothballs and fabric-softener sheets, documents said. Prosecutors allege Antoinette opened the suitcase periodically and sprayed its interior with Lysol to mask the decomposition odor. The group then moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and befriended a man who agreed to take care of their luggage before they left, documents said. The body was found in April 2008, still inside the suitcase, in the man’s storage shed. All five One Mind Ministries members were set to stand trial Monday. The case against the others has been postponed, Silverman said, as Antoinette and another woman lack attorneys and must either obtain one or waive their right to counsel. Silverman added that Antoinette has suggested, though not said outright, that God is representing her. Court documents say Ramkissoon joined One Mind Ministries after Javon’s birth in 2005. Silverman described her as a petite, soft-spoken woman who rejected her family’s Hindu religion, became a devout Christian and wanted to raise her son in that religion. “She didn’t want to have to work or go to school. She just wanted to take care of her son, and they offered her all this,” he said. The group insisted she wear a uniform the colors of royalty: white, tan and blue; give up her cell phone; stop referring to her family members by name; and not leave her home on her own, among other things, he said. “They really isolated her, brainwashed her, and you see what happened.” Ramkissoon’s mother, Seeta Khadan Newton, notified various agencies that her grandson was missing after she traveled to New York City in February 2008 to find her daughter, court documents said. Newton told authorities that when she spoke to Ramkissoon and asked about Javon, her daughter replied, “He’s gone. He’s lost,” but gave no further information. Silverman said he realized right away after consulting with Ramkissoon that he needed to communicate her story to the public and to prosecutors. “Once you get to understanding the story, understanding what Ria went through, and her intentions … it becomes quite clear that Ria, although many may not think her hands are clean, a reasonable, rational person would have some sympathy.”