Anna Elizabeth Young, who went by Mother Anna, pled no contest to a charge of second-degree murder for killing Emon Harper, who was between ages 2 and 3when his mother gave him to the cult. He died locked in a closet, deprived of food and water.
Young also pled no contest to manslaughter for the deadly seizure of 2-year-old Katonya Jackson because she withheld medication. She was given 15 years in prison for that death, and will serve that time concurrent with the longer sentence.
An AJC reporter in 2018 visited the former Florida cult site on a four-acre property in a rural stretch of North Florida near Micanopy, which calls itself “The Town that Time Forgot.” The AJC also reviewed hundreds of police and court documents related to the cult — apaper trail that dates back to 1973, and stretches from Michigan to Puerto Rico.
Though Young is being charged with the deaths of two children, survivors tell stories of many more people left scarred, scared and dead. Three of them — including Young’s daughter, Joy Fluker — testified in court Wednesday.
MetroAtlanta is home to Fluker and Katonya’s brother John Neal, who also testified at the hearing in an Alachua County courtroom.
Fluker told the court that she is still haunted by her memory of Moses’ last words in the closet, by flashes of his face in her mind, and by the sound of his voice in her head.
“Moses only lived a few short years, but he taught me life is too big to be swept under a rug, imprisoned in a home, or buried in the ground,” Fluker said to the judge.
Neal also told the court he remains scarred by his childhood in the cult, and by his sister’s death.
“We still love and miss her to this day,” Neal said of Katonya. “She was a human being. She was good. She was loved. She would have been 30 years old this year.”
Judge Mark W. Moseley was obviously moved by the testimony.
“The traumatic events that happen when we are children, we carry them our entire lives,” the judge said. “They are impossible to remove, especially when they are unresolved. You are victims, too.
“I hope this day will give you closure, so you can move beyond these events and heal.”
A mother-daughter shoutingmatch a few years ago began Fluker’s journey for justice.
During the argument, Fluker said she blurted out: “How can you tell me how to raise my children when you killed two children?”
Fluker said she knew her accusation was true by the look on her mother’s face. And she went to police.
Fluker said she has lost contact with her family, some of whom deny Young’s responsibility in the deaths. Fluker started a group named Prevent The Pain to help others who struggle with speaking up.
On Wednesday, Fluker told the court about her mother: “I know a different side of her that is loving and kind. I’m hoping that side of her would be proud of me.”
Witnesses told police that Moses’ tiny body was burned in a thin straw hamper. Sometimes, Fluker said, the terrible smell returns to her and she has to place perfume under her nose for relief.
She told the AJC before the hearing that she hasn’t spoken to her mother since 2015.
Neal saw Young at a Marietta Walmart while the investigation was going on. His stomach immediately tightened, the 6-foot-5-inch Air Force combat veteran told the AJC in 2018.
Neal said he still has literal and emotional scars from a brutal beating he says Young ordered over a piece of candy when he was seven. Neal said Young sentenced him to 33 lashes — a reference to Jesus being33 years old when he died on the cross.
Neal’s mother, Lea Vera Jackson, told the judge that Katonya was 2-years-old when she joined the cult. Jackson called her “Kay.”
“Kay was beat to death,” Jackson said. “John was nearly beat to death and has scars on his back that are still there. We were all beat. I’m here to stand up for my daughter and say justice was done. It hurts, but justice has been done.”
Just as the judge was about to adjourn the hearing, defense attorneys asked if Young’s daughter could be allowed to hug her before she was taken away.
“No,” the judge said. “I’m sorry, but I can’t allow that.”
The House of Prayer for All People religious cult began to crumble in 1992 after police investigated Anna Elizabeth Young for bathing a 12-year-old girl in bleach. Young served six months on a child-abuse charge before retiring to a quiet life in Marietta for 15 years. Young was arrested on a murder charge in November 2017 after her daughter alleged the cult leader was responsible for the deaths of multiple children in the 1980s. An AJC investigation of the cult uncovered multiple survivors who reported beatings and other abuse at the hands of Young.
Ben Brasch is the reporter tasked with keeping Fulton County government accountable. The Florida native moved to Atlanta for a job with The AJC. If there's something important to you going on in Fulton, he wants to know about it. Help him better metro Atlanta by dropping a line, anonymously or otherwise.