Boy Died From Medication, Not Exorcism, Preacher's Defense
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 7, 2004
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN--Eight-year-old Terrance Cottrell Jr. did not die from efforts to exorcize the "evil spirits" of autism out of his body, but from prescription medications which sedated him, a Milwaukee court heard Tuesday.
Ray Hemphill, 47, is on trial for felony physical abuse of a child causing great bodily harm in Cottrell's suffocation death last summer. If convicted, the self-described pastor of the Faith Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and five more on extended supervision and up to $25,000 in fines.
The local medical examiner ruled Cottrell's death a homicide after determining that he died from "mechanical asphyxia due to external chest compression" on August 22. Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann said last year that he didn't think a homicide charge would stick because he could not prove Hemphill knew that what he did would likely kill the boy.
Hemphill told police that he had been holding special prayer services during the previous three weeks to remove "evil spirits" from the boy. Hemphill, who weighed 157 pounds, said that he would sit on "Junior's" chest for up to two hours at a time.
On the night of Cottrell's death Hemphill held the 12th such 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.
While parishioners told police that they noticed the boy had made strange noises and had urinated on himself, none noticed when he died.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Assistant District Attorney Mark S. Williams told the jury Tuesday that Hemphill went "chest-to-chest" with the struggling boy to bring about God's help in getting rid of the demons he thought caused Cottrell's autism.
"Autistic children don't like to be touched," Williams said. "They do not like to be held in any way."
Defense attorney Thomas Harris said the rituals, held in the strip-mall church, were orderly and involved "nothing reckless" that would have endangered the boy's life.
Harris blamed the boy's death not on Hemphill's actions but on prescription medications. Harris pointed to a toxicologist report showing the medical examiner found toxic levels of the antihistamine brompheneramine and the antipsychotic ziprasidone, which is used to treat schizophrenia, rage and aggression, in the boy's blood.
Charges have not been filed against the boy's mother or other parishioners that participated in the fatal prayer service.
The trial is being televised live on Court TV.
Laws in 20 states protect those who commit felony crimes against children when a religious defense is used, Rita Swan, president of Children's Healthcare is a Legal Duty, told Court TV.
"Minister faces five years in prison after killing boy during exorcism" (Court TV)
"Terrence Cottrell: Death By Exorcism" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)