40 • FEATURE
Rural Tragedy double homicide near norwood chills community By Katie Klingsporn
a gray toyota sedan. a sunbaked piece of land. rumors of bizarre religious practices. And two dead children. That’s what we started with on that unforgettable September day in 2017 when authorities discovered the bodies of Makayla Victoria Roberts, 10, and her sister, Hannah Elizabeth Marshall, 8, in a vehicle on a farm just south of Norwood in western San Miguel County. Four adults who were on the land that day were arrested, and a fifth—the mother of the children— was taken into custody days later after turning herself in in Grand Junction. Their names were unfamiliar to most: Ashford Nathaniel Archer, 50, and Madani Ceus, 37, both of Haiti; Ika Eden, 53, of Jamaica, Frederick Alexander Blair, 23, a county www.TellurideMagazine.com
resident who owned the land, and the girls’ mother, Nashika Leonie Bramble, 36, of Georgia. Archer, Blair, and Eden were subsequently each charged with two felony counts of child abuse resulting in death, with Archer and Blair facing an additional charge of being accessories to a crime. Bramble and Ceus, meanwhile, were charged with two counts of first-degree murder. All but Blair have pleaded not guilty; as of press time, he had yet to enter a plea. The five suspects have been residing in San Miguel County’s small jail since their arrests. Eight months on, it’s clear they’ll likely remain there for a total of a year, if not longer. Trials won’t begin until August at the ear-
liest, and none of the suspects has yet to even take the stand. Because of that, it’s impossible at this juncture to know exactly what happened, and many in the area still struggle with a swarm of questions about the incident as well as feelings of remorse that such a tragedy could have happened in their community. But as the suspects’ cases continue the tortuous process of winding through court hearings, details have emerged from legal documents and testimony that paint a picture of a strange end-of-times commune that had only recently landed in Norwood, where, unknown to the outside community, the lives of two little girls were allowed to be extinguished.