Boy Dies As Churchgoers Try To Remove "Evil Spirits" Of
The local medical examiner determined Monday that the cause of Cottrell's death was "mechanical asphyxia due to external chest compression" and ruled it a homicide.
Ray Hemphill, 45, a member of the Faith Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith, was arrested Tuesday on charges of physical abuse of a child causing great bodily harm, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
Hemphill told police that he had been holding special prayer services during the last few weeks to remove "evil spirits" from the boy. Hemphill said that he would sit on "Junior's" chest for up to two hours at a time. Hemphill weighs 157 pounds. The boy's body weight was not revealed.
During Friday night's prayer service, the boy's shoes had been removed and he was wrapped in a sheet to keep him from scratching parishioners. Three women -- including the child's mother, Patricia Cooper -- sat on his arms and legs while Hemphill sat on his chest. One woman said she pushed down on the boy's diaphragm several times during the service.
Pastor David Hemphill, Ray's brother, said he is confident all of those involved in the death will be cleared.
"Didn't do nothing wrong," said Pastor Hemphill. "We did what the Book of Matthew said, Chapter 12. All we did is ask God to deliver him."
"He just passed away . . . God is a mysterious person, and if he wants to call a life back, he does."
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, this is not the church's first run-in with the law over its treatment of children. In 1998, a 12-year-old girl claimed to have been beaten during a church service. When police and the district attorney's office looked into her allegations, Pastor Hemphill claimed her beating was not severe and that congregation members were only doing as the Bible teaches.
No charges were filed in that case.
Reproduced here under special arrangement
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disability rights news service.