CORTEZ, Colo. (AP) — A man was sentenced to 24 years in prison in the 2017 deaths of two sisters who were banished to a car without food or water by members of a doomsday religious group because the girls were thought to have been impure.
Ashford Archer was found guilty in March of two counts of fatal child abuse and being an accessory to a crime for the deaths of 10-year-old Makayla Roberts and 8-year-old Hannah Marshall, The Cortez Journal reported Thursday. Archer was sentenced June 4 by District Judge Keri A. Yoder to 24 years in prison on the child abuse counts and six years on the accessory count, with the sentences running concurrently.
The bodies of the sisters were found in a car parked on a San Miguel County farm near Norwood in southwest Colorado in September 2017. Authorities said they died of heat, dehydration and starvation.
Archer was a member of a religious group that moved to the property earlier that year, according to court documents.
Investigators say they believe the group’s spiritual leader, Madani Ceus, declared the two girls were possessed by unclean spirits during a past life and ordered the girls kept in a car without food or water for days as the others waited for the apocalypse in advance of the 2017 solar eclipse.
Ceus and the girl’s mother, Nashika Bramble, were each charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of child abuse resulting in death. They have pleaded not guilty.
Bramble’s trial is scheduled for July 8 in Montrose, while Ceus’ trial date is pending, said Sherry McKenzie, spokeswoman for District Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller.