Wisconsin Charges Minister in Death of Autistic Boy

Reuters in NY Times/August 27, 2003

Milwaukee, Wis. -- Milwaukee County officials filed charges on Tuesday against a part-time pastor they say asphyxiated an 8-year-old autistic boy during a prayer session aimed at ridding the boy of the condition.

Ray Hemphill, 45, was charged with recklessly causing bodily harm to a child for the death on Friday of Terrance Cottrell, Jr., the Milwaukee County prosecutor said.

A conviction could result in a six-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine, said Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann.

Cottrell was wrapped in a sheet and Hemphill either sat on or laid across the boy's chest while other members of the Faith Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith -- including Cottrell's mother, Patricia Cooper -- held his legs and prayed to remove "evil spirits'' from him, police and witnesses said.

The local medical examiner ruled Cottrell was murdered by asphyxiation.

Members of the storefront church said Cottrell had participated in several prayer sessions over the previous three weeks.

Hemphill has been held in jail since Friday.

David Hemphill, Ray's brother and the church's pastor, released a statement saying: "Terrance's death is a great tragedy. However, it was not a malicious act on the part of the church.''

Terrance Cottrell, Sr., the boy's father, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he wanted the people responsible for his son's death to be held accountable.

As to his ex-wife, he said, "She's not a bad person. But she's gullible.''

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