Anna Young, 79, sentenced to 30 years in prison in February, died this week after serving just 42 days of her sentence
A woman who once led a Florida religious group described by prosecutors as a cult died in prison more than a month after being convicted of the deaths of two young children in the 1980s.
Anna Young, 79, was convicted last month after pleading not to contest second-degree murder and negligent homicide, according to Alachua County court records.
She was given 30 years for the murder conviction, which would have run concurrently with 15 years for manslaughter.
Young, who exploited the House of Prayer sect near Gainseville in the 1980s and 1990s, was in prison for just 42 days before her death.
Her daughter, Joy Fluker, told me First Coast News that Young was in the ICU Monday night with oxygen at a local hospital.
No other details about her death were released.
Between 1988 and 1989, Young caused the death of a toddler named Emon Harper from assault and starvation, prosecutors said.
Young, known in the cult as ‘Mother Anna’, was arrested in 2017 after Fluker told authorities about Emon’s death and other abuses at the House of Prayer.
After Young’s arrest, several former House of Prayer members came forward to tell local authorities they were being tortured and ill-treated, saying the ‘cult atmosphere’ included exorcisms and chemical baths.
Young (pictured in court), known in the sect as ‘Mother Anna’, was arrested in 2017 after her daughter told authorities about the death of a toddler and other abuses at the House of Prayer
Young (left and right, with her daughter) operated the House of Prayer sect near Gainseville in the 1980s and 1990s
The former members also confirmed the child’s death, although his body was never recovered.
Young was also charged with manslaughter for the death of Katonya Jackson, who died in 1983.
Katonya was starved, beaten, and refused her epilepsy medication because the leader believed the girl’s seizures were a sign that she was possessed by the devil.
In 2018, a House of Prayer survivor, John Neal, spoke to the Atlanta Journal Constitution about his experience growing up in the cult.
Young caused the death of a toddler named Emon Harper (pictured) sometime between 1988 and 1989 from assault and starvation, prosecutors said.
Neal, whose mother joined the House of Prayer, said Young was responsible for the death of his sister Katonya, who died of an assault.
“She tortured my little sister, treated her like an animal,” he told the AJC, adding that Mother Anna “had more power than God.”
Neal himself still bears the scars of the violent beatings he received by the group’s leader.
He told the AJC that he would be beaten in front of his own mother for such minor offenses as falsely accused of taking a candy.
Young started the House of Prayer in 1983, and the community’s strict religious philosophies were based on her own perverse and often cruel interpretations of the Bible.
Members and their children had to change their birth names to Biblical names and use the title “Brother” or “Sister.”
They were also required to wear Old Testament-style ‘holy clothing’, including long robes and beards for men and long dresses and headdresses for women.
Youth hunted the vulnerable, and many of the members were single mothers.
The cult dissolved in 1992 after Young bathed a 12-year-old girl as “ punishment ” in a bathtub full of chemicals.
Many of the members of the House of Prayer were children whose parents could not care for them for various reasons, and the victim’s parents were not members.
Young had reportedly decided that the girl “smelled” and that bathing her in bleach would “burn the evil out of her.”
The parents reported the leader to police for child abuse, but she fled Florida and was arrested eight years later in the attic of a relative’s home in Illinois.
In 2001 she was sentenced to six months and 12 days in prison.