Minister barred from exorcisms

Suspect in death out on bail

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/August 27, 2003
By Jessica McBride and Reid J. Epstein

A self-described minister facing a criminal charge in the death of an autistic child during a prayer session was ordered not to perform exorcisms as a bail condition during a Wednesday court appearance.

At the initial appearance, Ray Hemphill was given a $5,000 signature bail, meaning he did not have to post the actual money to get out of jail but would forfeit that amount if he violated bail conditions.

Hemphill was charged Tuesday with with felony child abuse of 8-year-old Terrance Cottrell Jr., who died during a prayer session Friday night at the Faith Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith. Church members said Hemphill tried to exorcise demons from the boy.

A criminal complaint says Hemphill lay on top of the boy for two hours, causing Terrance's death.

As a "strict condition" of bail, Court Commissioner John J. Valenti said Hemphill was not to "engage in or even attempt any sort of exorcism or spiritual healing."

Valenti said the case was "one of the most troubling cases ever to come before this court."

He said that that no matter how well-intentioned Hemphill was, the court can't ignore that his actions may have led to Terrance's death.

Hemphill, 45, showed no visible reaction during the rather perfunctory proceeding and did not acknowledge the flank of television cameras erected outside the glass. Jeff Carpenter, a public defender handling intake appearances Wednesday, appeared with Hemphill, who has been deemed indigent at this point.

Valenti reviewed the complaint and found probable cause to hold Hemphill for further court proceedings, which is standard in an initial appearance.

James Frisch, the prosecutor handling the appearance, said Hemphill has substantial ties to the community, no prior record and is not considered to be a flight risk.

When Hemphill was released from the jail about 4 p.m. Wednesday, he was met with a horde of television cameras and reporters. After seeing the media, Hemphill ran down dead-end hallways for several minutes until he made it outside. Hemphill had not arranged to have anyone pick him up and used a television reporter's cell phone to call for a ride.

After a 30-minute wait, Hemphill's ride arrived. He left without answering questions.

A preliminary hearing date was set for 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 8.

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