A woman and three children who claimed to be possessed by demons. A 9-year-old boy walking backward up a wall in the presence of a family case manager and hospital nurse. Gary police Capt. Charles Austin said it was the strangest story he had ever heard.
Austin, a 36-year veteran of the Gary Police Department, said he initially thought Indianapolis resident Latoya Ammons and her family concocted an elaborate tale as a way to make money. But after several visits to their home and interviews with witnesses, Austin said simply, “I am a believer.”
Not everyone involved with the family was inclined to believe its incredible story. And many readers will find Ammons’ supernatural claims impossible to accept.
But, whatever the cause of the creepy occurrences that befell the family — whether they were seized by a systematic delusion or demonic possession — it led to one of the most unusual cases ever handled by the Department of Child Services. Many of the events are detailed in nearly 800 pages of official records obtained by The Indianapolis Star and recounted in more than a dozen interviews with police, DCS personnel, psychologists, family members and a Catholic priest.
Ammons, who swears by her story, has been unusually open. While she spoke on condition her children not be interviewed or named, she signed releases letting The Star review medical, psychological and official records that are not open to the public — and not always flattering.
Furthermore, the family’s story is made only more bizarre because it involves a DCS intervention, a string of psychological evaluations, a police investigation and, ultimately, a series of exorcisms.
It’s a tale, they say, that started with flies.
In November 2011, Ammons’ family moved into a rental house on Carolina Street in Gary, a quiet lane lined with small one-story homes. Big black flies suddenly swarmed their screened-in porch in December, despite the winter chill.
“This is not normal,” Ammons’ mother, Rosa Campbell, remembers thinking. “We killed them and killed them and killed them, but they kept coming back.”
There were other strange happenings, too.
After midnight, Campbell and Ammons both said, they occasionally heard the steady clump of footsteps climbing the basement stairs and the creak of the door opening between the basement and kitchen. No one was there.
Even after they locked the door, the noise continued.
Campbell said she awoke one night and saw a shadowy figure of a man pacing her living room. She leaped out of bed to investigate, and found large, wet bootprints. On March 10, 2012, Campbell said, the family’s unease turned to fear.
It was about 2 a.m. Normally, Campbell, Ammons and her children would have been asleep, but they were mourning the death of a loved one with a group of friends.
Ammons, who was in Campbell’s bedroom, startled everyone by screaming, “Mama! Mama!”
Campbell said she ran into her bedroom, where her then-12-year-old granddaughter and a friend were staying.
Ammons and Campbell said the 12-year-old was levitating above the bed, unconscious.
According to their account of events, Ammons and several others surrounded the girl, praying. Campbell said she remembers being terrified.
“I thought, ‘What’s going on?’ ” Campbell said. ” ‘Why is this happening?’ ”
Eventually, Campbell said, her granddaughter descended onto the bed. The girl woke up with no memory of what happened, Campbell said.
Campbell and Ammons said the people who were visiting that night refused to return.