(AP) — A woman who considered herself the spiritual leader of a doomsday cult in Colorado has been sentenced to 64 years in prison for her role in the deaths of two children who were banished to a car without food or water because the girls were thought to have been impure.
Madani Ceus was sentenced last Friday on two counts of felony child abuse resulting in death, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported. Sisters Makayla Roberts, 10, and Hannah Marshall, eight, were found dead inside a vehicle parked on a farm in the town of Norwood in the summer of 2017.
Investigators say they believe Ceus, of Haiti, declared that the two girls were possessed by unclean spirits during a past life and ordered them kept in the car as the group waited for the apocalypse before the 2017 solar eclipse.
The girls likely died of starvation, heat and dehydration, but because the bodies were in a partly mummified condition, pathologists could not determine the exact cause of death.
“This cult found their way to our county and committed horrific abuse to these little girls, who died as a result of the inhumanity of Ms Ceus and her associates,” San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters said after the sentencing.
The children’s mother, Nashika Bramble, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced in September to life in prison without parole.
Ceus’s husband, Ashford Archer, was convicted of two counts of fatal child abuse and one count of being an accessory to a crime and was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Frederick “Alec” Blair, who owned the farm where the children died, struck a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to the accessory charge. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
A fifth member who was charged, Ika Eden of Jamaica, was found mentally incompetent to stand trial and is being treated at the state mental hospital in Pueblo.
Norwood is a town of about 500 people, 30 miles (48 kilometres) west of Telluride Ski & Golf Resort.