Former cult leader sentenced to 30 years in murder, manslaughter of two toddlers. Yes, toddlers.

MARIETTA, GA – A 79-year-old woman, who was the leader of a cult back in the 1980s, was recently sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading no contest to charges of murder and manslaughter in the deaths of two toddlers

Anna Elizabeth Young is the 79-year-old woman who pleaded no contest for murdering toddler Emon “Moses” Harper, and pleaded no contest under a charge of manslaughter for the death of toddler Katonya Jackson. 

Both of these toddlers were reportedly killed during the 1980s, which was when Young was the leader of a cult known as the “House of Prayer” in Florida. 

And the person who was said to have led authorities to Young was none other than her own daughter, Joy Fluker. 

Fluker had contacted police back in 2016, which led authorities to eventually arresting Young roughly one year later when she was living in Marietta, Georgia. 

This “House of Prayer” cult was supposed to have been something akin to a religious boarding school, but Fluker says that what was ongoing was far more sinister: 

“What I’m not going to do is lie about the lives that were lost during all of this…the journey. I feel like if I live with those, I’m just as guilty.”

Anna Elizabeth Young - Cobb County Sheriff's Office
Anna Elizabeth Young – Cobb County Sheriff’s Office

Those within the grips of the “House of Prayer” would be subjected to starvation, whippings with extension cords, and being literally burned. 

Fluker apparently remembers in detail the sounds emanating from an adjacent room while one of the toddlers was being killed by her mother: 

“I remember hearing her screaming in the next room over, getting a spanking and it was intense. Then, all of a sudden, the crying stopped. Everyone rushed in and I thought she was dead because they rushed her out and I just saw her limp body.”

It wasn’t until 1992 that Young’s cult began to crumble, namely due to the case involving 12-year-old Nikki Nickelson.

According to reports from that period, Nickelson was forcefully held down inside of a metal tub that was filled with chemicals and scalding-hot water. 

The young girl had suffered third-degree burns across her body and even had to learn how to walk again after the abuse. Nickelson also had to spend several months inside of a hospital’s burn unit, undergoing skin graft treatments and various surgeries.

It was this case that got authorities on the tail of Young – but she wound up fleeing the state of Florida and wouldn’t be caught until 2001 to face charges in the abuse of Nickelson. 

Young was apparently found to have been hiding out in a family member’s attic in Illinois for roughly 9 years prior to being arrested and extradited back to Florida.

She was later convicted of felony child abuse and wound up only serving 162 days in jail for the offense. 

Nickelson sadly passed away in April of 2015 due to diabetes and other health complications, having been laid to rest by her family on what would’ve been her 37th birthday.

Now, at 79 years of age and having lived what most would consider a full life decades after the atrocities she committed, some semblance of justice is being doled out against Young – who will likely never live to see her release date from prison.

Fluker says that she feels “ashamed” for what her mother’s victims endured while the “House of Prayer” was active – likening her shame to being her own sort of “life sentence”: 

“This is what I’m ashamed of…this is my life sentence.”

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In other recent cases involving the deaths of young children, the grandfather of a young girl was recently convicted of negligent homicide in her death. 

Here’s that report from earlier in February. 

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SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO – Officials in Puerto Rico report that a grandfather who pled guilty to negligent homicide in the falling death of his 18 month old granddaughter has been sentenced to three years’ probation.

In July 2019, Salvatore “Sam” Anello of Valparaiso, Indiana, was vacationing with his family aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

While the ship was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Anello lifted up his granddaughter, Chloe Wiegand, to a window in the children’s play area of the ship, reportedly so she could bang on the glass as she did at her brother’s hockey games.

Reports initially stated that Anello had been drinking and had dangled his granddaughter out the window, but Anello has denied those claims.

According to Puerto Rican authorities, Anello “negligently held” young Chloe out a window.

Anello told CBS This Morning:

“So I… was trying to stand her on a railing, and it happened in seconds.”

Tragically, Chloe fell 115 feet to her death from Anello’s arms onto the deck below.

Anello has maintained that he was unaware that a window was open, saying he saw a “wall of glass.”

The family has stated that Anello is color blind, which they claim meant he could not tell that one window in a bank of green-tinted ones was open.

In October 2020, Anello was charged with negligent homicide in Chloe’s death.  Initially, he pled not guilty, but he changed to a guilty plea to avoid jail and “so his family could begin to move on from the tragedy.”

According to NBC News, family attorney Michael Winkleman asserted that the decision to enter this plea was “incredibly difficult.”

Winkleman told NBC:

“I’m not sure why they charged him with that [negligent homicide] because every single fact points to the fact that this was just an accident.”

Winkleman added in a statement:

“But because the plea agreement includes no jail time and no admission of facts, it was decided the plea deal is in the best interests of the family so that they can close this horrible chapter and turn their focus to mourning Chloe and fighting for cruise passenger safety by raising awareness about the need for all common carriers to adhere to window fall prevention laws designed to protect children from falling from windows.”

Officials in Puerto Rico sentenced Anello to three years’ probation, which he will serve at home in Indiana.

After the sentencing, Anello stated:

“I feel a mixture of anger and relief. Relief that I will serve no jail time and that I did not have to admit any facts.

“Relief for my family so that we can close this chapter and move on together.”

According to CNN, Chloe’s parents, South Bend, IN, police officer Alan Wiegard and Kimberly Wiegard, “blamed Royal Caribbean, saying the window shouldn’t have been open.”

Attorney Michael Winkleman asserted:

“I think Royal Caribbean needs to answer this question, is, why would you ever, in a kids’ play area, put windows that passengers can open.

“And it was reasonable for Sam, the grandfather, to think that this was all glass, because from his perspective, it was all glass.”

Kimberly Wiegard told the Today Show:

“There are a million things that could’ve been done to make that safer.”

She added:

 “I know my mom was asking people, ‘Why on earth is there a window open on the 11th floor without a screen or anything?’”

The family has filed a civil suit against Royal Caribbean, “claiming that warning signs about open windows could have prevented the toddler’s death.”

Royal Caribbean has filed a motion with the federal court in the Southern District of Florida, asking for dismissal of the suit.

Calling Chloe Wiegard’s death a “sad tragedy,” the company stated:

“[Anello’s] actions, which no reasonable person could have foreseen, were reckless and irresponsible and the sole reason why Chloe is no longer with her parents.”

The cruise line contends that Anello was aware that the window was open before he held Chloe up.

According to NBC News, Royal Caribbean has submitted to the court a series of still images taken from security video.  The cruise line claims that one image shows Anello leaning out of the very same window through which Chloe fell.

The court motion reads:

“When he arrives at the open window, and while Chloe is on the floor, Mr. Anello leans his upper-torso over the wooden railing and out of the window frame for approximately eight seconds.”

It goes on to say:

“Because Mr. Anello had himself leaned out the window, he was well aware that the window is open.”

Family attorney Winkleman has countered that the pictures are “misleading,” but according to NBC, he “declined to elaborate” further.

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Author: Gregory Hoyt


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