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Less than two months after being sentenced for the deaths of two children, former cult leader Anna Young has died in prison.
A spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections confirmed to Oxygen.com that Young died on March 31 while at the Florida Women's Reception Center.
"Every death is thoroughly investigated by law enforcement and the Department's Office of Inspector General to ensure independent oversight and absolute accountability at all levels," the department said.
While the spokesperson said an official cause of death is still being determined by the medical examiner, Alachua County Sheriff’s deputies told local station WCJB that Young, 79, likely died of COVID-19.
Young pleaded no contest at the end of February to second-degree murder in the death of Emon Harper, who was starved and beaten to death while living at the Micanopy-based cult, House of Prayer, in the 1980s.
She also pleaded no contest to manslaughter in the death of Katonya Jackson, a toddler who died in 1983 after authorities said Young denied her life-saving seizure medication.
The deaths were a dark secret among former cult members until 2016 when Young’s daughter, Joy Fluker, called Alachua County Sheriff’s deputies to report that she believed her mother had been involved in Harper’s death.
The call launched a lengthy investigation into Young and the activities at the House of Prayer, which lasted from 1983 to 1992. Members of the cult were forced to adhere to Young’s strict interpretation of the Bible. They later told investigators they suffered significant abuse—including beatings, being locked in a box, forced labor, and being deprived of food—for any perceived infractions, according to an affidavit in the case obtained by Oxygen.com.
The disturbing allegations from former members, who recounted Young forcing a 12-year-old girl to take a bleach bath, ordering another woman to abandon her child in Puerto Rico, and demanding that a man cut off his own penis for having sex, serve as the basis of the recent UCP podcast “The Followers: House of Prayer.”
The Florida Department of Corrections requires that all inmates being transferred from county jails to state prisons have a negative COVID-19 test before they arrive, making it possible that Young contracted the deadly disease after her arrival in prison, WCJB reports.
Young had been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the deaths of Harper and Jackson.
Fluker recently told Oxygen.com that despite her mother's prison sentence, she was still glad she had made the fateful call that sparked the investigation.
“I cry over it. I felt some guilt over it, but I know it was the right thing to do,” she said.
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