A woman who was acting as a ‘spiritual leader’ to a group of people living on a Colorado farm allegedly ordered that two young sisters be kept locked in a car without food or water for weeks before they were found dead.
The bodies of Makayla Roberts, 10, and Hannah Marshall, 8, were found in mid-September on a farm outside Norwood – about 30 miles west of the ski resort town of Telluride.
The girls were only publicly identified this week by the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office, but their cause of death is still under investigation.
Investigators believe the girls were dead for several weeks before their bodies were found.
Madani Ceus, a 37-year-old from Haiti, and the mother of the girls, Nashika Bramble, have both been charged with killing them. Three other adults who had been living on the farm also face charges of fatal child abuse.
Makayla and Hannah have different fathers, but police say the men are not involved in the murder investigation.
Court records unsealed by a judge this week revealed the group members believed that Ceus was a spiritual leader and that she allegedly ordered the girls to be punished while the group was living in tents on the property.
The farm owner told San Miguel County Sheriff investigators that he met a group of nine people, including four children, at a gas station outside Grand Junction in May and invited them to use the land.
The man, named Frederick Blair, said he soon joined the group members living there in tents and cars. The document doesn’t give any information about how the group came together before Blair met them.
Blair said Ceus told the others to call her ‘Ama’ or ‘Yahweh’ and ordered that the girls stay in a car without food or water because she considered them ‘unclean’.
But the document says that another member of the group, Nathan Yah, told police that the girls were allowed to leave the car to use the bathroom and did receive food and water.
When police interviewed Ceus she ‘would not say who was responsible’ for making the girls stay in the car, according to the documents.
Ceus told police that at first she provided food for the entire group but later told the mother of the girls that she couldn’t keep doing it. Bramble and Blair began getting items from a local food pantry, Ceus told police.
Blair told police that Ceus didn’t have any weapons but he was afraid of her and felt others were under her ‘direction and control.’
The farm owner had told his father about the girls’ deaths on September 8. Blair’s father, who lives in Texas but was visiting Colorado, called the sheriff’s office.
When deputies searched the property, they found the girls’ bodies inside a gray car registered to another woman who was with the group. Officers said the bodies had been in the car for an extended period of time.
Blair later told police that he believed the girls died in June. The record says Blair remembered a sheriff’s deputy visited the property for an inspection at some point after the girls died. Blair used to grow medical marijuana there but had stopped.
Blair said he and Yah then covered the car with a tarp.
All five adults facing charges in connection with the girls’ deaths are due court on November 20 in San Miguel County.