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Last Updated: Monday, 25 August, 2003, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
US boy dies during 'exorcism'
Pastor David Hemphill with a copy of the Bible outside his home in Milwaukee
Pastor David Hemphill said his church had done nothing wrong
An autistic eight-year-old boy has died during a prayer service held to supposedly cure him of the evil spirits blamed for causing his condition.

Torrance Cantrell was wrapped in sheets and held by his hands and feet while members of the Faith Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith in the city of Milwaukee prayed over him.

This procedure had been taking place three times a week. However, on Friday those involved in the ceremony - including his mother - noticed the boy had stopped breathing.

Paramedics were called to the scene but were unable to revive him.

The brother of the church's pastor, Ray Hemphill, who was also present at the ceremony, was arrested shortly after the incident on suspicion of physically abusing a child, local police said.

"[We] didn't do nothing wrong," the pastor, David Hemphill, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper.

"We did what the Book of Matthew said... all we did is ask God to deliver him."

'Tormented'

Autism causes children to have severe problems relating to, and communicating with, people around them.

In interviews with local newspapers, neighbours of the Cantrell family alleged that Torrance hated being touched and said that having people restrain him would likely have caused him a great deal of stress.

However, David Hemphill said that the boy had been wrapped in sheets and had his shoes removed in order to prevent him from being hurt.

"We were asking God to take this spirit that was tormenting this little boy to death," Mr Hemphill said.

"We were praying that hard, but not to kill."

David Hemphill started the independent church in 1997. It has a small congregation of six families.




SEE ALSO:
Exorcism after Swazi witch hunt
22 Nov 02  |  Africa
Vatican lays down exorcism law
24 Nov 00  |  Europe
Congo witch-hunt's child victims
22 Dec 99  |  Africa


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