Anna Young, 77, is accused of killing a toddler through torture and starvation decades ago. She led the cult through intimidation and fear

The trial of Anna Young, the 77-year-old woman accused of killing a toddler when she was the leader of a Micanopy-area religious cult from about 1985 to 1995, will be handled by a statewide prosecutor rather than the Eighth Circuit State Attorney’s Office.

Jamie Whiteway, an assistant state attorney who has been working on the case with colleague Sean Brewer, next month will become a statewide prosecutor and asked State Attorney Bill Cervone if she could take the case.

Now, Whiteway will work on it with another statewide prosecutor, Cass Castillo.

“Jamie Whiteway has been second chair on it and has been very invested in it all along. She asked (statewide prosecutors) if they would be willing to take it and they agreed. It’s fine with me,” Cervone said. “Nothing changes other than Jamie and Cass will be specially appointed by me as assistant state attorneys here to see it through until the end.”

Cervone said key witness depositions are being scheduled for September and October, primarily those who were in the cult. Cervone said the case could be set for trial in early 2020.

Whiteway will begin her new job in September and will be based in South Florida. Young’s trial and other court proceedings will remain in Gainesville.

Typically statewide prosecutors are assigned to cases that involve multiple counties. By swearing in Whiteway and Castillo as circuit attorneys, they have authority to handle the case.

Castillo has experience in Alachua County — last year he got a manslaughter conviction against Andrelo Witcher for the death of his former girlfriend Heather Ann MacCrossen, who went missing about 11 years ago.

That case has one key feature in common with Young’s — the bodies or remains of the victims have not been found.

The case against Young for the death of Emon Harper is complex, and the time span between the reported crime and her arrest in December 2017 presents challenges.

Also, most of the potential witnesses who lived at the House of Prayer on 138th Avenue off Wacahoota Road decades ago now live in other states. So do many family members of Young and Harper.

And prosecutors have no evidence of Emon’s body — no remains have been found despite extensive searches at the compound that included technology such as ground penetrating radar and cadaver dogs.

Emon died sometime between 1988 and 1989. Also called Moses, he was 2 or 3 years old at the time and was allegedly killed by Young through starvation and torture.

People who lived at the compound said they believe Emon’s body was burned in a pit there.

Former House of Prayer members have told authorities that Young maintained an iron grip on them — luring them in through charisma and controlling them through fear.

Torture and abuse was common, both of adults and in children, members said. Parents who moved to the site with children gave them over to Young’s care, and then were kept apart from them.

Young in 2001 was convicted of child abuse for bathing 12-year-old Nikki Nickelson in a detergent with bleach, causing severe burns. She was sentenced to the time she had already spent in jail: six months.

Former residents also contend Young caused the death of another youngster, Katonya Jackson, then age 3, in 1983 through torture and starvation. Young has not been charged in Katonya’s death, though family members believe she should be held accountable for it.