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4-Year-Old Choked to Death in Church's Faith-Healing Service

August 23, 1985|From Times Wire Services

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — A young boy with no apparent ailments was choked to death during a "laying on of hands" healing service at a storefront church and police charged two preachers and the victims' parents with manslaughter.

Medical examiner C. L. Garrett said 4-year-old Dennis Taylor Jr. had his windpipe crushed during the religious ceremony Thursday and died several hours later.

The child's parents, Marine Staff Sgt. Dennis James Taylor, 28, and Brenda Ann Taylor, 25, and two young preachers, Carloues Robinson, 16, and Antionette Mason, 21, were charged with involuntary manslaughter.

"Laying on of hands" is a practice that fundamentalists believe can cure believers of ailments or other problems.

Detective Douglas Freeman refused to give details of how the death occurred.

"It was part of a religious ceremony," he said. "I'm not going to try to second-guess the pastors involved, the parents involved or to draw issue with any belief."

Sheriff Billy Woodward said the church where the ceremony took place was a new one, operating out of an old beauty parlor but added that he did not know the denomination.

Officers were called to the Taylor home by a rescue squad member who noticed marks on the dead child's throat. A sheriff's report said the father told officers the child "might be possessed."

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