This storefront church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, made the news when an exorcism
service, held in an unbiblical manner, went wrong resulting in the death of an 8-year old boy.
Medical examiners ruled
the death of an 8-year-old autistic boy a homicide after an autopsy showed he was asphyxiated during a church service in which participants held him down while praying to expel "evil demons
" they believed caused his disorder.
Though Jeanne Wiedmeyer, an investigator for the Milwaukee County medical examiner, called Terrance Cottrell Jr.'s death Friday a homicide, the district attorney's office said a decision on criminal charges would wait until Wednesday.
The minister who led the prayer service at the Faith Temple Church of Apostolic Faith has been in police custody since the weekend. It was the ninth service conducted for the boy over a three-week period in the now shut storefront church.
An official at the church said the 5 foot 7, 150-pound minister sprawled across the boy Friday night "to keep him from hitting his head on the floor, because he was bucking."
The idea to lay across the boy came out of the Revised Standard Edition of the Bible, from the First Book of Kings, Chapter 17, Verse 21
, said Assistant Pastor Pamela Hemphill. The passage describes a prophet who lay across a child and cried out, "Let this child's soul come into him again," she said.
The Hemphills said the boy's
mother came to the church seeking help about three months ago and said her son was in danger of being institutionalized because he was violent toward himself and his 2-year-old sister.
Allison and other neighbors said they'd seen radical changes in Cooper's behavior since she joined the church this spring. Once gregarious and energetic, the single mother getting by mostly on Social Security checks began to live in near-seclusion, appearing dazed, exhausted and increasingly worried.
"They completely brainwashed
Pat," Allison said.
Allison said a church member approached Cooper one day when she was struggling to control Torrance outside their home. The person told Cooper that if she brought her son to the church, he could be "spiritually healed."
Church members began to take Cooper and Torrance to the church in a van three and four times a day for prayer, Allison said. A woman and her daughter moved in with Cooper early this summer and recently moved out, she said. Other church members were in and out of Cooper's apartment, helping her clean and cook. Allison said Cooper told her that during prayer sessions -- both at home and at church -- church members would forcibly hold down Torrance and strike him in attempts to heal him of his autism.
Allison said Friday's session sounded like one Cooper told her about earlier in the summer.
"She called it an exorcism
," Allison said.
Once, Allison said, she looked through her friend's window and saw church members taking turns striking the boy with a belt as Cooper watched.
"I told Pat that it was wrong, but she said the Bible told her you're supposed to chastise your children," Allison said. "I told her to stop, told her what could a little kid ever do that was so wrong to beat him like that? She said the church told her it was the only way to heal him."
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