Hemphill Sentenced Over Boy's "Exorcism" Death
During the sentencing on Tuesday -- nearly one year to the day of Cottrell's death -- Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Jean DiMotto also ordered Hemphill to pay $1,224.75 in restitution, and to refrain from performing exorcisms until he receives "extensive training" in them.
Last month a jury convicted Hemphill, 47, of child abuse - recklessly causing great bodily harm, in Cottrell's death.
Hemphill, a former maintenance worker with no formal religious schooling, was ordained as a pastor of the Faith Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith by his brother, Bishop David Hemphill, who founded the church in 1977.
He told police on the night of August 22, 2003 that he had been holding a series of special prayer services, described by some as "exorcisms", during the previous three weeks to remove "evil spirits" of autism from the boy. Hemphill described how he would sit or lay on "Junior's" chest for up to two hours at a time, whispering into his ear for the "demons" to leave his body.
Three women -- including the child's mother, Patricia Cooper -- described to police how they sat on the boy's arms and legs while Hemphill sat on his chest. One woman said she pushed down on Junior's diaphragm several times during the service.
At some point during the service, he stopped struggling and breathing.
An autopsy later determined that Cottrell suffocated.
"All he could do was struggle and you interpreted that as demonic," Judge DiMotto told Hemphill. "It was your unreasonable and reckless conduct that caused this child to die."
"The community cannot risk another child being hurt, much less being killed, in a religious ritual," she said.
Hemphill had faced a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Prosecutors chose not to file murder charges, because it would have been difficult to prove that Hemphill intended to kill Cottrell.
While not admitting guilt, Hemphill told the court, "Your honor, I'm truly sorry for what happened to Terrance Cottrell Jr. That is what I would like to say. Thanks."
Assistant District Attorney Mark Williams said Hemphill and his brother still insists Cottrell was possessed by demons.
"There seems to be little or no remorse," the prosecutor said.
Authorities have not yet filed charges against any of the women involved in the ritual. All cited their Fifth Amendment right to refuse to testify to avoid incriminating themselves during Hemphill's trial.
Reproduced here under special arrangement
with Inclusion Daily Express
disability rights news service.