GAINESVILLE, Florida — A 75-year-old woman who ran a cult-like religious boarding school has been charged in the death of a toddler three decades ago and investigators believe there may be “many, many” more victims.
Anna Elizabeth Young ran the House of Prayer for All People near Micanopy from about 1985 to 1995, authorities said. She was arrested in Atlanta last week on charges that she tortured and withheld food from Emon Harper, who was 2- or 3-years-old when he died in the late 1980s.
Art Forgey, a spokesman for the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, told the Gainesville Sun that investigators believe that Young — who was called “Mother Anna” — may have abused numerous children over the years in multiple states.
“We think there are many, many more. We can document other states and other missing children that we believe are tied into this,” Forgey said. “They ran a religious institution — exorcising demons and other things like that. We have documentation involving her clear back the ’60s. We did extensive forensic examination on the property this summer. We are still analyzing the evidence that we gathered.”
He said investigators had recently received new information regarding Harper’s death which led them to reopen the case and uncover new evidence which resulted in the charge of first-degree murder against Young.
“Witnesses came forward from the House of Prayer alleging brutality and even some children being murdered,” Forgey told WCJB-TV last week. “It’s not just one isolated incident of beatings. There were numerous children that were beaten, locked in solitary confinement, food-withheld.”
He said other attendees of the school — who are in their 40s and 50s now — are cooperating wth authorities.
In 1992, Young was charged with child abuse stemming from an incident in which a 12-year-old
girl suffered severe burns after being dunked in a steel tub filled with chemicals. Young went on the lam and was finally arrested eight years later in the attic of a relative in Illinois. She was convicted in 2001 and served time in jail.
Young had bought the Florida property in 1985 with her husband Jonah Young. He died in 1988 while reportedly working on a truck which slipped off its jack and crushed him.