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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Child Dies in Church Service

Aired August 25, 2003 - 19:05   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: An 8-year-old boy, an autistic child in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is dead after his mother took him to a storefront church to be healed.
One man is under arrest right now in connection with the death and investigators say Friday's prayer service is directly to blame.

CNN's Jeff Flock has more now from Milwaukee.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the boarded up storefront of what used to be a bar that is the Faith Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith, 8-year-old Terrance Cottrell was seen as being possessed by an evil spirit. Those who knew him say he was autistic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The violence (ph) is that an unclean spirit comes out of a man...

FLOCK: Reverend David Hemphill's brother Ray, also a minister at the church, is now being held in the Milwaukee County jail on suspicion of child abuse.

Police say little Terrance died of suffocation in what has been described as a two-hour prayer service, where he was held down in sweat-drenched sheets by church members and his own mother.

FLOCK (on camera): Spend a lot of time at the church?

Yes, too much time.

FLOCK: Denice Allison lives upstairs from the mother and describes her as a zealous church convert who once said the evil spirit had spoken through her son at a previous service.

DENISE ALLISON, VICTIM'S NEIGHBOR: She said he said, "Kill me, take me, kill me." I was, like, "Are you serious? I couldn't really believe that."

FLOCK: Since the death, Faith Temple Sunday services have been moved to Pastor Hemphill's home, the wails of the congregation audible outside, no cameras allowed in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was child abuse.

FLOCK: Outrage in Milwaukee, local talk radio on WTMJ erupting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it is horrible. My son is 8 years old.

FLOCK: Could church members have confused junior's autism with an evil spirit? Pastor Hemphill says no.

REV. DAVID HEMPHILL, FAITH TEMPLE CHURCH: It wasn't confused. It was just like I say, whenever you went to school to be a journalist, God sent me to school to be a preacher. I know what I'm talking about.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FLOCK: Anderson, what we are talking about now is a homicide. The death was rolled as such this afternoon. Official cause, mechanical asphyxia due to chest compression. Essentially he was suffocated.

No word on charge. We probably won't get that until tomorrow. According to the church, it was God that decided to take the boy home, though I think it is a fair bet that it won't be God who was charged with homicide here in Milwaukee County.

Back to you.

COOPER: Unbelievable case. Jeff Flock, thanks very much.

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