The pastor of a woman who burned and killed her baby told a court yesterday that her mental illness was the manifestation of “spiritual attacks”.
While testifying at the sentencing hearing of convicted murderer Philippa Marshall, Bishop Christopher Minnis said that he used prayer to treat these attacks that ultimately resulted in the death of Marshall’s one-year-old baby Philicia.
Minnis still believes that Marshall requires prayers in conjunction with medical treatment, the court heard.
There was no dispute at trial that Marshall grabbed the sleeping child and doused her with gasoline before setting her afire in a locked bedroom on December 28, 2017, at her home in Faith Gardens, and that the child died from complications from the burn wounds on February 14, 2018.
Minnis, of Greater Bethel Cathedral, was called by Marshall’s lawyer, Bjorn Ferguson, as a character witness.
Minnis, who has known the convict since she was a child, described Marshall as loving and intelligent.
Ferguson asked if he had seen Marshall in any other capacity.
He said, “We went to her house for prayer in various different responses to spiritual attacks that took place.”
Minnis agreed that he was not a licensed medical practitioner when questioned by the prosecutor Tommel Roker.
Justice Bernard Turner asked, “Is it the church’s position that mental disturbances are necessarily demonic attacks?”
Minnis said, “You can have mental disturbances with being under a spiritual attack.”
Minnis claimed that some people who came to him “completely messed up” experienced miracles through prayers while others experienced some improvement with prayers and medical treatment.
Roker asked Minnis if he suggested that Marshall seek medical treatment.
He replied, “That was already in progress”.
At trial, psychiatrist Dr. Kirk Christie said that Marshall told him she had been seen by two mental health doctors but she refused to provide their names.
Marshall’s husband, Isaac, said that she needed help. He said he often wondered if he “did enough as a father and a protector”.
Marshall said his two sons often asked him for their mother.
Questioned by the court if they also made inquiries about their sister, Marshall said, “They don’t. They know because I told them what happened to her.”
Marshall’s brother-in-law John Carey asked the court to consider “rehabilitation and treatment, instead of retribution and punishment”.
Carey said, “We have lost Philicia and also lost Philippa.”
According to Carey, Marshall attempted suicide twice but was still attentive to the needs of her family.
The sentencing hearing continues on November 12, at 2 p.m.