From the outside, Anna Young was a deeply religious woman who offered those who were down on their luck refuge at her Micanopy, Florida home—but the residence also held dark secrets that allegedly included horrific torture, abuse and even death.
Those secrets would stay buried for decades until Young’s daughter, Joy Fluker, made a desperate call to law enforcement in 2016 to report that her mother had killed a child decades earlier while serving as the leader of a religious cult.
UCP Audio’s upcoming podcast “The Followers: House of Prayer” explores the deeply disturbing details of the case. The six-part series, launching Wednesday, March 3, is hosted by journalist Leila Day and reported by investigative journalist and former prosecutor Beth Karas. It includes interviews with Fluker, investigators and former cult members after Young's 2017 arrest for the 1988 death of Emon Harper, also known as “Baby Moses.”
“His body was never found but other former members said something horrific had happened to him, that he had been abused and tortured and disposed of,” Karas told Oxygen.com.
Earlier this week, prosecutors also added a charge of manslaughter against Young for allegedly withholding medicine from another young child, Katonya Jackson, who died in 1983.
While she initially pleaded not guilty at the time of her arrest for Harper’s death, she entered a no contest plea to second degree murder in his death and manslaughter in the death of Katonya Jackson in court on Wednesday, Karas said.
Karas’ interest in the complex case began in the spring of 2018 when she read that Young, once the leader of a religious community known as the House of Prayer in rural Micanopy, outside Gainesville, had been arrested in Harper’s death decades after the alleged crime had occurred.
“I just needed to understand this community, like how did this happen?” Karas said.
The House of Prayer, started in 1983, ran for nearly a decade under the strict teachings of Young, who used her own interpretations of the Bible to guide the group’s philosophies.
“The home would take people who had maybe gotten released from drug rehab and were really kind of down and out,” Karas said.
But while she offered free room and board, residents who earned money were required to hand it over to Young to provide for the communal well-being of the group.
Members were also required to wear “holy clothes,” which meant long robes and beards for the men and long ankle-length dresses for the women, who also covered their heads in garments similar to a nun’s habit. To show their devotion to God, members of the group gave up their birth names and assumed biblical names.
Young, who was known as “Mother Anna,” also assumed responsibility for all the children in the group. They slept in her bedroom and the children’s biological mothers were prevented from having contact with them, Karas said.
“People were attracted to it for various reasons,” she said. “The single mothers would have a place for child care, you know, they were down and out. ... They needed help. ... Some people wanted to live a religious life and they were attracted to this, but then it spiraled into this control and she kind of brainwashed people.”
As one former member says in a trailer for the podcast, he believed he had met God while living at the House of Prayer.
“I believed in God despite what I was going through and now that I can read the Bible for myself, I can see that they just created their own religion,” he said.
The level of control Young allegedly exerted led to a series of dark acts explored in the podcast. She is accused of forcing one mother to abandon her son on the streets of Puerto Rico, severely disabling another child after placing her in a bleach bath, and the abuse that led to the deaths of Harper and Jackson.
Then Fluker made the fateful call to police in 2016.
“How can I snitch on my mom?” she’s heard telling authorities in the trailer. “I don’t know if I am doing the right thing. Like is this something that a family is never supposed to tell?”
“The Followers: House of Prayer” podcast launches on March 3. It will be available on UCPAudio.com or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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