Four more charged in Yahweh case
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Four more people have been charged in connection with the case of 13 members of the St James-based religious group Qahal Yahweh, who were arrested in June this year following a police raid at their Montego Bay compound.
The quartet made their first appearance in the St James Parish Court on Friday.
They are Omar Johnson, Jevaughn Johnson, Vera Woolery and Melisha Thompson.
Twenty members of the religious group Qahal Yahweh were taken into custody by the police on June 30 at their Paradise Avenue compound in Montego Bay, during a joint special operation of the security forces. There had been allegations of child abuse and assault at the compound, prompting the raid. Thirteen persons were subsequently charged.
During Friday’s hearing the clerk of court informed the court that she had not had the opportunity to peruse the case file and was not in a position to say whether the four defendants could join the 13 defendants on the mention list or whether it should be separated.
The clerk also indicated to the court that, after reviewing the file, the prosecution would require two additional witness statements in respect of the 13 defendants.
“Every time the matter comes before me, I’m told of something else…We need to move forward…We cannot have a case like this on the mention list for a year,” said Presiding Judge Sasha-Marie Smith-Ashley.
“I have not been able to look at this file and so I am respectfully asking for a date when I can properly look at this file,” the clerk said.
At that point, King’s Counsel Peter Champagnie said he concurred with the sentiments expressed by the judge.
“Your Honour, I agree with the sentiments expressed by the bench…We were told from September 15 this year that there were further statements to come in relation to matters on the mention list, two further witnesses statements, and this has continued until today… Your Honour, what I’ve been asking for in respect of this matter is a trial date,” the attorney stated.
Smith-Ashley concurred with Champagnie, stating that the court requires a trial date, which was set for January 26, 2024. All 17 persons had their bails extended until that date.
The initial 13 accused individuals charged are Rebecca Gallimore, Christopher Anderson, Nekeisha Harding, Derrick Clarke, Roanalee Maitland, Alicia Meadley, Fabian Nelson, Franchain Paris, Jodian Spence, Jose Foskin, Oral Spence, Rayon Letman and Ingrid Williams.
The charges came only three weeks after the children of many of the accused were placed in State care.
The police confirmed that investigators removed several exhibits, photographs, and other material of evidentiary value from the compound.
The Qahal Yahweh compound, which is two doors away from the late Kevin Smith’s Pathway International Kingdom Restoration Ministries, made headlines in 2019 when authorities raided the property, leading to the arrest of the church’s leader and the removal of three children from the compound.
The raid followed months of complaints from residents related to allegations of human trafficking, abduction, child abuse ,and sexual assault.