Christian Ministry Raided in Boy's Death
By The Associated Press
May 20, 2004

Authorities raided a Christian ministry that advocates corporal punishment looking for evidence in the suspected abuse death of an 8-year-old Georgia boy.

Officials with Weigh Down Ministries and Remnant Fellowship Church said they've done nothing wrong and believe the October death of Josef Mykel Smith was an accident.

The boy's parents, Joseph Smith, 44, and Sonya Smith, 36, were charged in December with felony murder. They were members of the church, which encourages corporal punishment.

The related Weigh Down ministry involves a Christian weight-loss program.

Authorities have said the parents believed Josef was "demon possessed." Police said Josef was beaten so severely that his brain swelled and bruises covered much of his body.

A Cobb County, Ga., police detective and local police collected files and computer disks from the ministry's office and warehouses on Wednesday.

Georgia authorities have said the family beat the boy, locked him in a closet and made him pray to a picture of Jesus.

Josef's 17-month-old brother died of pneumonia in July, and an investigation has been reopened into his death.

The Remnant Fellowship Church's Web site urges spanking to make children obedient. A statement on the site says Josef's death was "the direct result of a tragic accident."

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