Boy's death at church ruled a homicide

The death of an 8-year-old autistic boy during a weekend prayer service has been ruled a homicide by the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's office.

Journal Sentinel Milwaukee/August 25, 2003
By Reid J. Epstein

Ray Hemphill, sat on the chest of Terrance Cottrell Jr., 8, during a prayer service Friday for the autistic boy, police say. Terrance suffocated, according to the medical examiner's office.

According to the medical examiner, Terrance Cottrell Jr. suffocated to death by "mechanical asphyxia due to external chest compression."

Milwaukee Police and the district attorney's office are investigating the boy's death Friday night at the Faith Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith, a small storefront church at 8709 W. Fond du Lac Ave.

Ray Hemphill, the church pastor's brother, is being held on suspicion of physical abuse of a child, a felony. Milwaukee Police Capt. Nan Hegerty said Monday that she does not expect anyone else to be arrested in the case.

Two women - including Cottrell's mother, Patricia Cooper - held the boy down while Hemphill tried to remove the evil spirts from him, said Hemphill's brother, David Hemphill, the pastor of the church.

Cooper has not been able to be reached for comment.

David Hemphill has stood by the actions of his brother and the others trying ot help the boy.

"Didn't do nothing wrong," David Hemphill said Sunday. "We did what the Book of Matthew said, Chapter 12. All we did is ask God to deliver him."

David Hemphill said Sunday that the boy's hands had been covered with sheets to prevent him from further scratching himself. The participants did not use force, he said, demonstrating by putting his hand gently on a reporter's shoulder.

Hemphill said that he understands police must investigate the incident and that if his child had died in such a manner, he would hope for an investigation. But he believes no one will, or should, be punished for Torrance's death.

He also said the child's death would not change the way the church operates, saying: "How you going to change the Bible?"

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.