A former cult leader has been arrested on charges of abusing and murdering a toddler.
Authorities said an unfolding investigation revealed that many more children were abused under Anna Elizabeth Young’s care.
Young was arrested in Cobb County near Atlanta Thursday after the investigators in Central Florida determined through a year-long investigation that she allegedly murdered a toddler between ages 2 and 3 between 1988 and 1989 while operating the House of Prayer in Micannopy, Florida.
The 75-year-old allegedly killed the toddler, Emon Harper, by withholding food and by “willfully torturing” and “maliciously punishing” him, causing him “great bodily harm” and “permanent disability” or disfigurement.
Investigation into Harper’s death began about a year ago when a relative of Young’s who witnessed violence and deaths take occur at the House of Prayer as a child came forward to police to detail what she witnessed.
The witness’ account opened up a “Pandora’s box” for investigators as they looked into Young’s past and continued to find more witnesses and cooperating evidence, Forgey said.
Now, authorities believe that Young has been abusing children since the 1960s across several states.
She is also believed to be connected to a 6-year-old who went missing in Michigan 1973. Young is even listed on the original missing person report and is now believed to have buried him before reporting him missing.
Investigators believe that Young established roots in Alachua County in 1983 and came to the Micanopy area in 1985, founding the House of Prayer shortly after on Southeast 138th Avenue, Forgey said.
Police are also investigating similar cases of abuse that may have been committed by Young in Puerto Rico in the 1980s as well, after she had moved to Alachua County but before the House of Prayer had been founded.
In 1992, a 13-year-old girl who was placed in Young’s care by her parents was burned badly after Young bathed her in a bathtub full of chemicals. The child’s parents had brought her to the House of Prayer for “schooling” and “teaching.”
After the incident, Young fled the area and was found eight ears later living in an attic of a relative’s home in Illinois, according to police.
She was then extradited back to Florida and served prison time for that crime after she was convicted in 2001.
At the time of Harper’s death, Young had been running the House of Prayer for All People, described as a “religious boarding school” by the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office, on Southeast 138th Avenue in Micanopy.
Police say it is unclear how many people participated in the cult.