Autistic Boy, 8, Dies During Prayer Session

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The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that members of a small church where an 8-year-old autistic boy died during a prayer session gathered Sunday at the home of their pastor, who said he was confident no church members or staff would be charged in the case.

“Didn’t do nothing wrong,” David Hemphill said outside his home Sunday afternoon, with the sounds of yelling and moaning from his gathered flock plainly audible from his front steps. “We did what the Book of Matthew said, Chapter 12. All we did is ask God to deliver him.”

Police arrested Ray Hemphill, the pastor’s brother, at the church – Faith Temple Church of Apostolic Faith, 8709 N. Fond du Lac Ave. – after paramedics were unable to revive Torrance Cantrell on Friday night. Torrance’s mother, Patricia Cooper, held the boy’s feet and two other women held the boy’s hands during the hourlong prayer session, said Pamela Hemphill, David Hemphill’s wife.

Ray Hemphill, 45, and also a minister at the church, was still being held in the Milwaukee County Jail, pending a decision on charges, officials said. No other arrests had been made. Police maintained a non-disclosure order Sunday on the medical examiner’s report into the boy’s death.

David Hemphill said Sunday that the boy’s hands had been covered with sheets to prevent him from further scratching himself. The participants did not use force, he said, demonstrating by putting his hand gently on a reporter’s shoulder.

Hemphill said he understands that police must investigate the incident and that if his child had died in such a manner, he would hope for an investigation. But he believes no one will, or should, be punished for Torrance’s death.

He also said the child’s death would not change the way the church operates, saying: “How you going to change the Bible?”

The boy had a spirit in him, the pastor said. Asked how he knew that, he said: “I’m 62 years old, and I can tell a person that’s not normal.”

When asked whether the spirit could simply be the boy’s autism, Hemphill said: “He had a lot of problems.”


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