ATLANTA – Joy Fluker loves her mom, but the horrendous scenes that replay in her mind, revealing what she witnessed, haunt her some 20 years later.
“I used to have nightmares about the last time I saw Moses,” Fluker recalled regarding the death of a little boy she considered a brother growing up. “I knew in my heart he was dead, but I didn’t want to do whatever it took to know for sure because I didn’t know if I could live with it.”
“I’m not blood-related, but I was told he was my adopted baby brother, and I felt guilt, because I didn’t protect him.”
Fluker, now 39, is accused child killer, convicted child abuser and “cult leader,” Anna Young’s daughter.
“I lived through a lot of it. I was down there," she said.
"I witnessed a lot of it,” Fluker said about growing up in what her mom called, “The House of Prayer,”—and what police call, a religious boarding school in Alachua County, Fla., possibly dating back to the '60s.
But growing up, she desperately tried burying herself into her education and her career, hoping to forget what happened.
Looking back at the deaths and the abuse she witnessed at the hands of her own mother, she said, it could have been prevented.
“I know it could’ve been avoided. People, friends, family knew mom had a problem years ago,” Fluker said, referring to her mom’s instability—including seven marriages—and an untreated mental illness.
Everyone was just like, ‘Oh, she is crazy.' But because she has a gift of so much charisma and she has another side to her that can do so much good, people just turned a blind eye,” her daughter said about her God-fearing mother.
If she or someone had spoken up years ago, she said her mom may not be in jail accused of murder, but instead, maybe in a hospital getting treatment for her mental health.
What happened to Moses?
Known at The House of Prayer as “Mother Anna,” Young was recently arrested for the starvation, torture and murder of 2- or 3-year-old boy, Emon “Moses” Harper that allegedly happened in the '90s. The now-75-year-old, was captured in Marietta, Ga., on Thursday, Nov. 30, where she had been living on the run after she allegedly killed the toddler.
The mother herself now, Fluker said she endured nightmares about Moses all her life, experiencing unimaginable visions of the last time she ever saw him alive.
“The nightmares of his face, his dehydration, his eyes, what he said to me, how I helped, how I didn’t give him water, how he was told to do chores. I didn’t even realize how little he was because I was little too. I remember him being in that attic area they called a cage. I remember everything.”
The last time she saw him, he was in her closet.
Fluker remembers, because she lived with all of the other children at The House of Prayer. She grew up with Moses and 12-year-old Nikki Nickelson, who was also abused by her mother, but made it out alive.
“Moses came, I think probably, maybe ’86. He was real little. He wasn’t an infant, but he was real little, because I remember him getting in trouble for having accidents when he was potty training.”
He was treated with love, she said, until her father died—and that’s when she said her mom completely lost it.
“My mom has always had mental illness, and the reason I’m here is because I want to make sure that’s brought to light,” Fluker said. “I think that after my father died she had a break because he was the mediator with a lot of the things that started happening.”
According to Fluker, mental illness runs in the family. In fact, she said, her grandmother was in a mental institution. But, in Florida, she said, her mom tried to immerse herself into religion, in lieu of seeking treatment.
Fluker said The House of Prayer wasn’t so much a school, as it was a religious community that started off for people who wanted to get closer to God.
“[It was] for people who did terrible things to find a place that didn’t judge them, that just wanted them to be pure in the eyes of God,” she said.
But among the prayers and study, abuse among both children and adults was the tragic norm for the "community," including Fluker.
“I never considered myself a victim because what I witnessed was so much worse. I mean, things happened to me. Mom was heavy-handed with all of her biological kids,” she remembered.
“I was disciplined, beat. Some of it was regular corporal punishment that, I guess, [were] within the lines of the law. But some of it was intense.”
Father’s death leads to severe pain
Fluker’s dad died in 1988. She was 9 years old.
And that’s when everything took a turn for the extreme, she said.
“When he died, everything went haywire. I think her grief… she just went, things accelerated,” Fluker said.
She remembers when Nickelson was burned, but she doesn’t believe that it was intentional.
Fluker said her mom put detergent in all the kids’ baths as a cleansing measure.
“She didn’t know any better, because she didn’t believe in regular medicine. She believed, she was an herbalist. Yellow root tea was the cure for everything. Prayer and supplication. We didn’t go to doctors.”
After several rounds of punishment and “whippings” nothing was working to teach Nickelson how to bath “properly,” she said. So, her mom took cleaning the young girl into her own hands.
It was her mom’s thought, she said, “I’m going to give you a real bath, a punishment bath, so then, you’ll start bathing yourself, and you’ll never want me to bathe you again.”
That night is seared into her memory.
“I remember hearing her scream,” she said about Nickelson. “I remember actually, shamefully, thinking it was funny her pattern of screaming. I remember dressing her wounds. I was made to help.”
Fluker admits, that at that time she wasn’t a "good girl" and felt spoiled because, even though she was abused as well, she didn’t receive it as harshly as the other children like Nickelson and Moses.
“I had way more privileges than everyone else; I thought I was the princess. I thought that my mom was the queen and this was like a kingdom.”
The next day when Nickelson started walking around, Fluker remembers she didn’t feel sorry for her.
"I thought she was faking it. I was a selfish little girl; I didn’t like Nikki. She used to steal my toys,” she recalled.
It was about self-preservation.
“I was all about wanting to be mom’s favorite, so I wouldn’t get whooped,” she said, admitting that she told on other kids and got paid a quarter. “I’m ashamed of it now."
Nickelson led a tortured life following the abuse she suffered at the hands of Young in 1992.
Gerri Hill, now 46, witnessed the severe abuse Young imposed on her little sister, as well as the years of agony she endured as a result.
“It was just an emotional roller coaster for my little sister. She had to seek counseling for it, and of course she didn’t live a normal childhood life because of her legs,” Hill said.
“Personally, I want [Young] to be tortured the way that she tortured these children,” she said.
According to Hill, her sister told her that Young filled the tub with scalding hot water, dumped bleach, ammonia and other chemicals into the tub, and then had her held down.
“She had [someone] hold my sister down in the tub, while she calls herself bathing her and she just started bathing her from waist down.”
The 12-year-old girl clinched her legs tight, keeping the inside of her legs from burning, but the skin on her legs and feet were severely injured with third-degree burns from the chemicals and scorching water.
She was taken to the hospital and spent several months in the burn unit, and underwent as slew of surgeries and skin grafts, Hill said. She spent many more months going through physical therapy to relearn how to walk, and a psychiatrist.
But, she said the scars, physical and emotional, lingered.
“It was very hard for her because she was ashamed of her legs and how they were different from everybody else,” Hill said. “It was very emotional because I walked through the process with my little sister and my parents during this time.”
“It was just very, very emotional. It’s nothing I would want my worst enemy to experience.”
While Nickelson never returned to Young’s school, she was also never able to be the pre-teen she should have been, her sister said.
“This was a 12-year-old child -- a 12-year-old child that needs to be out playing and enjoying life and being with her friends.”
She was changed forever.
Young was eventually convicted of brutalizing Nickelson, Alachua County Sheriff's Office public information officer, Art Forgey, said.
However, Young fled Florida and was not located for nine years.
One of the FBI's most wanted was found hiding out in an attic in Illinois in 2001, where was arrested and charged with felony child abuse and extradited back to Florida, convicted.
Fluker was with her mother in Illinois when she was apprehended, and said she served a year in prison for the abuse.
A daughter speaks out against ‘Mother Anna’
All of the children, including Fluker, idolized her mom, she said. She had a certain way about her, a charisma that no one could deny, she remembered.
Even now, Fluker hopes that her mom will use that to help others find God and faith in jail—sans abuse.
“She does have that gift,” Fluker said. “She didn’t abuse everybody she came in touch with. She abused the people who she felt needed more help, more correction, to make them perfect in the eyes of God and in the eyes of her.”
Growing up, Fluker said, she only saw a “Mother Anna.” I didn’t see my mother anymore. I just saw a “Mother Anna.”
But as she grew up and become a mother herself, she uttered an accusation that would change the course of her life and her mother’s, not to mention their relationship as she knew it.
“I blurted out, ‘How could you tell me to raise my kids when you killed two children?’ I never had approached her with any of my suspicions before. I had never mentioned that I knew in my heart what she did to Moses.”
When she saw the look in her mother’s eyes, she knew that she had hit a nerve, she said.
“I knew that I had said something true, so, I started digging, and I started trying to see if it was true, but she was lying to my family telling them that I was hallucinating and remembering things wrong.”
Fluker doesn’t believe that her mom truly grasps what she did to those children.
“If she understood the gravity of it, I don’t think she could’ve lived with herself.”
A deadly trail reveals more possible victims
Fluker said her mom killed at least three children, and possibly one more who disappeared.
In January 2017, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office in Florida developed new information during their investigation, after a tipster from the House of Prayer came forward. Since that admission, detectives traveled the country piecing together their case against Young.
Their investigation indicated that Young had not only tortured children in her boarding school between March 1988 and June 1992, but had committed the premeditated, first-degree homicide-murder of Moses.
According to the sheriff’s office, the investigation detailed that Young starved the children, tortured and abused, maliciously punished and placed them in cages--all of which led to the toddler's death, sometime between 1988-89.
A grand jury indicted her on a first-degree murder charge for his death, Forgey said.
However, Young was no longer living in Florida. But, her last known whereabouts were in Georgia.
After securing an arrest warrant, the United States Marshals Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force was requested to find and apprehend Young on the outstanding murder warrant.
The Fugitive Task Force, along with the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office Fugitive Unit, located Young at 174 Bridgestone Dr., in Marietta, Ga., where she had been living under her husband’s last name, Anderson. Her Cobb County home, front yard and stoop were adorned with nearly two dozen holiday-, Jesus- and religious-related signs, like: “Jesus is the reason for the season” and “Every day is a blessing.”
The fugitive task forces conducted surveillance at her home, and on Thursday, Nov. 30 they made contact with Young-Anderson at her home and took her into custody without incident.
Officials, however, don't believe this is the end of their investigation or her trail of murdered and tortured children. In fact, they have documented cold cases spanning back nearly 50 years.
"We can document abuse and other victims back to 1968. We have worked with authorities in other jurisdictions to try to address some of those case," Forgey said.
Their investigation into her has led them to other states' unsolved child murders, including Michigan, and possibly Puerto Rico.
"We believe there are more victims, we don’t have a steadfast number though, because it is unknown how many children crossed her path," Forgey continued.
Young-Anderson was booked into the Cobb County Jail, and a Fugitive from Justice Warrant was secured for the Florida charges.
She was taken into custody by the US Marshall Service in Atlanta, but she has not entered a plea yet. She waived extradition and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office is arranging her return to Florida to face her murder charge.
“I love my mom. Because I see the good in her, but I also see the sickness,” Fluker said. “I’m not justifying it. I would not spit in the eyes of the victims and say any of it was justified. It was still evil; it was horrific; it was wrong, but I see her sickness and I feel sorry for her.”
She also feels tremendous guilt for not speaking up sooner, not telling her mom to confess to what she said she did.
With tears running down her face, she said, she wants to make up for being “selfish and only caring about herself.”
“I still feel guilt; maybe that’s why I’m here… This is destroying our family now, but guess what? How many other families have been destroyed, because of all the pain they suffered? With knowing who did this to them. Who were permanently deformed now because of abuse they suffered, may not live to be 75, who have lost children forever who died at 3 years old, and 2 years old and 6 years old. What are they going through? How can this now begin to heal them, give them closure?”
“I have to take ownership. Of my part,” she said crying. “Not speaking up.”
Now, she wants her mom to do the same.
“Don’t just deny what you did; admit it. I denied it for years and look at all the pain I caused. Admit what you’ve done and move forward. You can still find peace in your soul, by doing the right thing even now.”