September 1, 1973: The Cult-Related Disappearance of Catherine Davidson



WHAT HAPPENED?


On September 1, 1973, 6-year-old Catherine Barbara Davidson, from Chicago, Illinois, went missing after her family traveled to a state park in Sawyer, Michigan for a picnic.


Her stepmother, Anna, and father, Robert, claim that while they unpacked the car, Catherine and her 5 older siblings went to explore the area. However, 15 minutes later, the rest of the children returned, but Catherine was not with them. An extensive search turned up up nothing except a pair of underwear that could not be attributed to Catherine.


Though Catherine has never been seen since, the story her parents gave to the police unraveled in the years after she was reported missing.

AFTER CATHERINE DISAPPEARED


That was the story - they had gone to the park, Catherine went missing, they searched, but did not find her. That is what her parents claimed happened. However, the police felt that her parents seemed "unusually callous" about the situation. In fact, 3 days into the rigorous search for their beloved 6-year-old, they were spotted in a car with other couples, laughing and drinking.


Though the police were suspicious, there was nothing they could do to implicate the Davidson's in their daughter's disappearance. The other children backed up the story that she had gone missing at the park. There was nothing else to do.


After Catherine went missing, Anna and Robert had another daughter together named Joy. In the following years, they moved to Zebulon, Georgia, and then to rural Florida, and founded The House of Prayer for All People. So, a cult. They were a religious group operating under collectivism, and subscribed to Old Testament beliefs, including kosher diets, full-length robes and head coverings. So, definitely a cult. They had started out as a place for those grappling with addiction of poverty, under the guise that they would take them in, feed them, and provide a safe place for their children.


The group grew to 24 members at its largest. When members joined the cult I mean church, they had to take on new names. Robert became Jonah Young, and Anna retained her first name but took on Robert/Jonah's last name. She preferred to go by Mother Anna.


Anna was heavily involved and the one primarily in charge and was known for her cruelty to other members. She forced members to turn over all of their money, she forcibly separated parents from their children, and she would often starve, humiliate, beat and torture members, especially the children, for "sinning". Each beating took 33 lashes with a whip, as Jesus did before being crucified.


Fonda Favors, known as Sister Rachel when she was in the cult, was just a kid when her family joined the cult. They had joined for financial support, but soon, Fonda was separated from her family, and began to suffer violent beatings at the hands of Anna.


At one point, Anna and Fonda's mom got into a fight about money, and the 2 departed the cult. However, her older sister Sabrina stayed in the cult with her nephew, Marcos. Anna would eventually order one of the members to abandon the 2-year-old Marcos Cruz at a Puerto Rico church because he was "full of the devil". Nobody knows the actual fate of the child.


In 1988, Robert/Jonah was found crushed under a truck in a junkyard. Though officially ruled an accident, many suspect foul play. Anna's violence would only increase after his death.


Another child, John Neal, remembers he and his 6-year-old sister were in Anna's cult. Anna became convinced Kay had a demon inside of her, and she would be beaten, starved, and forced to stand for ours to keep her from falling asleep. Kay began having seizures as a result of the abuse, and went into cardiac arrest, dying 2 days later. John and his mother escaped the cult.


In 1992, she bathed a 12-year-old in bleach and then tied her to a bed, causing severe burns that left permanent scarring. She claimed she had to "burn the devil out of her", and forced other members to hold her down in the tub.


Anna was convicted of child abuse after the girl's parents found her and took her to the hospital. But before she could be sentenced for the crime, she and Joy, who was still a child at the time, ran away. The cult dissolved once she left. In 2000, Anna was found in Alton, Illinois and she served 6 months in jail for the child abuse charge. After she was released, she settled in Cobb County, Georgia for 15 years.

"MOTHER ANNA" IS FOUND OUT


In 2017, having learned more information from her siblings, Joy came forward and accused her mother of killing Catherine. She stated that Anna had bound and gagged the child and placed her in a closet in Chicago. She scratched at the door all night, she was ignored. When one of the siblings finally opened the door, she was dead. Catherine had never even gone to the state park. By the time she was reported missing, she was already dead.


Joy also claimed that Anna had killed a toddler, known only as Moses Young, child he was a member of the cult. They were able to identify the child as Emon Harper. He was only 2 years at the time. His parents were members of the House of Prayer for All People. Though he is presumed dead, he is technically considered missing, as his body has never been found.


Other former members supported Joy's story, claiming that in 1988 or 1989, Anna had beaten and starved a toddler for an extended period time until he was found dead in her closet. While some witnesses claim that she put him in a straw hamper and set his body on fire, others claim that she gave the child away to be raised by monks.


In November of 2017, she was arrested in her Marietta, Georgia home where she had been living for 15 years under her husband's last name. She worked as a private nurse for elderly patients and attended Christian church.


Anna was charged with Emon's murder in December of 2017. The investigators believe that other children may have fallen victim to her, as well. One man who was in the cult as a child claimed that his 2-year-old sister was killed when Anna forced other cult members to beat and torture her. Her death was considered natural at the time, but it is now being re-investigated.


Anna awaits trial for Emon's murder, but has never been charged in Catherine's disappearance. Joy believes that her mother is mentally ill, and believes Catherine's death was an accidental result of her violent tendencies. She is 78 now and sitting in a Florida jail awaiting her sentencing. She will face life in prison, or death by the state, if convicted of Emon's murder.


Though Joy, some of Anna's other children, and investigators believe she is not only responsible for Catherine's death, but the deaths of many other missing children, 3 of Joy's siblings who were never part of the cult do not believe any of the claims she brought against Anna.


This story is super weird and crazy, partially because much of the action comes after Catherine went missing, or was killed. Though Anna was not crime-free before: she had a charge for child abuse against a 5-year-old before Catherine went missing. Meaning, she was a child abuser before, and a child abusing cult leader after... it doesn't take too much detective work to believe that in between those things, she killed Catherine.


What is really sad is that she likely killed many more children, and abused and tormented even more, when their parents went to her for help. They were struggling. They needed money, or needed someone to help watch and feed their children while they worked. They were impoverished or struggling or recovering and Anna took advantage of them, beating and even killing their children. She played the nice, helpful mother card to get them in the door, and then pulled the rug out from under them and began harming their children.


It also sucks that she only served 6 months not only for bleaching a child, but also escaping police and evading jail time. A woman who is willing to bathe a child in bleach is not necessarily someone who should be free to roam as she pleases, and to only serve 6 months is horrific. She is more than likely responsible for 2 deaths, and likely responsible for many more, and she didn't begin serving time until she was 77 years old. She got to live a long, full life while children as young as 2 had their lives stripped from them because of her insane delusions.


Oh, and while we're talking about things that suck when talking about a woman who faked the disappearance of her child and then created a cult focused on child torture, whippings and bleach baths (hint: it all sucks), it breaks my heart that nobody will ever be held accountable for Catherine's murder. Her parents went to a state park as a coverup for their daughter's death, utilized investigative resources to look for her, and then got off scot free for gagging her and leaving her scratching at a closet door until she died.


Though she won't get justice here on earth, I wish Catherine Davidson has been, and continues to, rest in peace. And though her punishment might have come too late, I wish "Mother Anna" has been, and continues to, rot in prison.

REFERENCES:

https://www.reddit.com/r/UnresolvedMysteries/comments/adbg62/holy_twisty_turny_mystery_from_the_charley/?sort=top

http://charleyproject.org/case/catherine-barbara-davidson

http://charleyproject.org/case/emon-david-harper

https://medium.com/true-crime-by-cat-leigh/cult-leader-accused-of-abusing-killing-children-47b76270c0ed


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