Inside the 'House of Horrors' where investigators say at least one child died
Three decades ago, Billy Mountain would wave hello to his neighbors at the House of Prayer but he was always skeptical of what went on behind the property gates.
Today, investigators call it “the house of horrors.”
“They kept those kids so well guarded,” Mountain said. “You rarely ever saw them.”
Except when they would go into the front yard periodically to pray.
“They would all get on their knees and lean over like in a Muslim prayer, and they would say Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…and that was the only prayer they knew,” Mountain said. “So I ask them one day, ‘you’re only saying Jesus?’ and they said ‘yeah, we have to keep repeating it.’”
At that moment, Mountain knew something just wasn’t right.
“Although they carried bibles around, I said, they’re not practicing what they are preaching,” Mountain said. “Something is a miss here, something is wrong, something is really wrong.”
From next door, Mountain would see new members trickle in.
How did the kids get there? Well Mountain said that was a mystery, but new adult members seemed to consistently have the same story.
“The adults, I talked to a couple of guys that were in prison,” Mountain said. “They said that this House of Prayer would help them get out of prison. They actually went in and lobbied for them and said they’d get them a job and be responsible for them.”
But once they were in, could they get out?
“I talked to one guy, he said, ‘I gotta get out of here, I gotta get out of here.’” Mountain said. “He looked like he was terrified and said, ‘I’ve got to get out of here…but I can’t, because if I leave, I’ll go back to jail.”
What exactly was so horrifying?
“We were down there as an agency to investigate different child abuse cases,” said Art Forgey of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office.
Mountain says any time authorities showed up, the women and children would suddenly disappear.
“The women would take tons of clothing and put them in vans and station wagons and they’d all drive away 3-4 days before the police would show up,” Mountain said.
When the police arrived, Mountain said the men would guard the gate, lock it up and demand a search warrant.
“I knew a couple of the cops and they said ‘one of the cleanest places we’ve ever searched…nothing…we couldn’t find anything,’” Mountain said.
Just about a year ago, Mountain said he met a man wandering the property where the House of Prayer’s people once lived. Mountain said the man told him this is where his sister was killed, and that they were all abused.
“He said ‘now I’m grown up and I’m back,’” Mountain recalled. “And he lifted his shirt, and it was just shredded. And he said, ‘this is what they did to me.’ and he said it was mostly Anna.”
Anna Young was arrested December 1 at her home near Atlanta.
“What she is being charged with is the murder of a child we believed happened in 1988-89,” Forgey said. “That murder was the result of cruel punishment, withholding food, just overall deplorable conditions and maltreatment.”
The sheriff's office started investigating a year ago after a witness came forward. Soon more than a dozen more followed, Forgey said.
“Those initial investigations and interviews led detectives to other states where she’s been at,” Forgey said. “They have documented other children and a couple of other murders that have taken place that Mrs. Young, our suspect has been involved in.”
It's not the first time Young has been charged. In 1992 she was charged with child abuse after investigators say she burned a 12-year-old girl inside a tub to try to rid her of her demons.
Mountain said the man told him about some of the abuse.
“There was an 18 wheeler trailer over there,” Mountain said. “He said ‘they would keep us chained up in there for days, sometimes weeks, and we wouldn’t see daylight or anything… they would sometimes come by and give us enough water to keep us alive.’”
Prayers, gates, and privacy all seemed strange to Mountain, but what always intrigued him was the big, blazing outdoor oven.
“They have this oven going 24 hours a day,” Mountain said. “I’d stay up all night long some nights just watching them go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth…my instinct said they’re putting bodies in there, they really are. They’re putting people in there.”
“We believed that body was disposed of in a fire and cremated on site,” Forgey said. “We believe there are numerous victims not just one.”
Anna young is being held without bond at the Cobb County jail in Georgia awaiting her extradition back to Florida.