Deep down, she always knew something wasn’t right on the north Florida farm where she grew up. Joy Fluker wanted the answers to the questions she’d always had. But she’d always really known the truth.
Fluker’s parents founded the House of Prayer for All People and invited others to join them at the rural compound, promising a better life through Biblical teachings. But those who came left with a dark secret they would keep for four decades. Fluker’s mother — known as Mother Anna — physically tortured the residents, leading to serious injuries and the death of at least one child, according to police.
Earlier this year, Fluker did what had once been unthinkable, she reported the behavior of her mother, Anna Elizabeth Young, to police. She was one of several people to come forward and in November a Florida grand jury indicted the 75-year-old on a charge of premeditated murder in the death of a young boy known as Moses. Young was arrested the next day at the Cobb County home where she had lived more than 15 years. Authorities labeled her a “cult leader.” Police believe countless others were victims of Young’s abuse and their investigation continues.
In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fluker described the abuse she witnessed, including the disappearance of Moses.
Separately, a Cobb County man, John Neal, also told The AJC about the abuse he endured and the death of his toddler sister, whom he says was routinely beaten as instructed by Mother Anna.
“She had 30 years of freedom,” Neal said. “She tortured kids. Anna Young was completely responsible for everything.”
‘It started out as something good’
Fluker, who now lives in Acworth, believes her parents wanted to help others in their community, including those with problems seemingly too big to handle alone.
“It started out as something good,” Fluker said. “They would minister to people. People would come there, people trying to get over drugs, alcohol. And sometimes, they would bring their children.”
Neal’s mother met Anna Young in either 1982 or 1983, when he was about 6 years old. Young offered to care for Neal and his younger sister while their mother worked, and his mother took Young up on the offer. Initially, the Youngs were very kind, Neal said.
But Anna believed Neal’s sister, Katonya, had a demon inside her, Neal said. As punishment, Young instructed both Neal and Fluker to beat the little girl, who hadn’t yet reached her third birthday. Neal, who now calls his sister “K,” says Young turned him against his sibling.
“I remember she would have K running in place saying, ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,’ over again, talking about the demons in her,” Neal said. “She would beat her on her feet. Or she would make her stand up for hours and hours and not sleep.”
His sister was also starved, Neal said. When K began having seizures, Young took her to the doctor, but refused to give the child medication, Neal said. In the fall of 1983, the 2½-year-old had a massive seizure and went into cardiac arrest, Neal said. She died at the hospital, where she had been on life support two days.
His sister was buried by the time Neal’s biological mother was told of her death. His mother was questioned, but no charges were ever filed. Neal, a married father of two, is hopeful investigators will re-open the investigation.
“It just went away. Nothing was ever done,” said Neal, who now lives in Kennesaw. “It was a complete travesty what happened to my little sister.”
Attempts to reach a lawyer representing Young were unsuccessful.
‘One day, he just wasn’t around anymore’
Young has been charged with killing another child, a young boy who died several years after K did. Emon Harper was known as Moses, according to Fluker and Neal. Fluker believed her mother had adopted Moses, who was about 3 years old the last time he was seen alive.
“One day he just wasn’t around anymore,” Fluker said.
Her mother told her Moses had been given to monks who would raise him. Neal was told Moses was in a better place, and the time, he believed it.
Neal was tasked with caring for Moses and the two spent a lot of time together. The last time Neal saw Moses, the two were together in the garden when Young called for the little boy. Moses grabbed tight onto Neal’s legs to resist Young, who picked him anyway.
“She came and got him, and that was the last time I ever saw him,” Neal said.
Although Young never told those on the farm Moses was dead, Fluker always suspected it, she said. She always wanted answers about what had happened. According to her indictment, Young starved, tortured and caged Moses until he died.
He survived the abuse, but Neal’s scars won’t let him forget what he endured, including a beating he says nearly killed him. His punishment was 33 lashes because Jesus was 33 years old when he died, Neal said. But if he moved during the beating, the lashes would start again at number one.
“She had the men taking turns beating me bloody,” Neal said. “They beat the hell out of me.”
Often, Neal was forced to hide when others came near the farm. Later, he was sent to Georgia and Michigan to live with Young’s relatives before he was later returned to Florida. When Neal was 12, he said his mother found the courage to take him from the Youngs and the two moved to Georgia.
‘She does love, but she has a sick mind’
Fluker, a married mother of three, says her mother’s untreated mental illness is to blame for the abuse. Young should be charged for her crimes, but needs treatment, Fluker said. As more of her childhood memories returned during her adult life, Fluker said she had no choice but to contact police, even if it meant angering her siblings and other family members.
“She does love God, I believe. But she has a sick mind,” Fluker said. “My mom does have mental illness. If people had spoken up a long time ago, those lives could have been spared.”
Young, Fluker says, has two very different sides. There is the kind side, a charismatic woman willing to help others. But there is the darker side, the Anna Young that has abused countless children and adults in her drive to be loved, Fluker said. Young previously served prison time for a separate abuse case after burning a 12-year-old girl with chemicals. But Young could face the rest of her life behind bars if she’s convicted of murder.
“She’s not insane,” Neal said. “But she knows right from wrong. She didn’t do it to her own family, she did it to other people.”
Young, who turns 76 on Dec. 14, was being held late Thursday at the Cobb County jail. She has waived extradition, but investigators declined to comment on when she may be returned to Florida’s Alachua County.