In Improvised Maryland ‘Exorcism,’ Mentally Unstable Mom Stabs Two Kids to Death, Injures Two More

A mother in Germantown, Maryland stabbed her four kids with knives, killing two, because she thought they were possessed by a demonic entity.

The two dead children — a boy, Norell Harris, 1, and a girl, Zyana Harris, 2 — were found Friday morning on their mother’s bed in a Germantown townhouse. Both had been stabbed repeatedly, police said. A sister, Taniya Harris, 5, and a brother, Martello Harris, 8, were seriously injured but are expected to survive.

Zakieya Latrice Avery, 28, is thought to have carried out the attack with a housemate, Monifa Denise Sanford, 21. Both suspects said under questioning that they had been trying to dislodge the devil, CBS News reported.

(via WUSA)

“She thought the devil was in the kids, and that’s sort of the thing she centered it around as to why she had to conduct an exorcism,” said Capt. Marcus Jones, director of the police department’s major crimes division. “She just thought that there were evil spirits within the kids.”

Another woman charged in the killings, Monifa Denise Sanford, 21, made similar statements during questioning, police said.

According to the Washington Post,

Police said the women thought that they were performing an exorcism, although it did not appear they had followed any ritual.

“This was all about what was in their minds,” said Capt. Marcus Jones, commander of the county’s major crimes unit. “They felt like there was something bad going on with the children, and they were trying to release it.” …

Avery, who has received mental health counseling, moved twice in recent years — from Western Maryland to Ohio and then to Montgomery, according to a minister whose church she attended. A relative said she had separated from her husband. Writings on her Facebook page suggest that she believes in God and fears Satan.

When exorcisms take place, especially if someone is hurt or worse, this site is a natural outlet for such stories. That said, given Avery’s history of mental issues, I do not “blame” these awful events on religion despite her religious delusions; the truth is rarely that black-and-white.

In fact, it should be noted that congregation members of the Maranatha Brethren Church in Hagerstown, led by their pastor, reportedly did their best to help Avery and her kids with donations and other kinds of support — a very admirable thing.

While the people helped as best they could, the same cannot be said for the Almighty. God didn’t lift a finger to answer their prayers for the family — instead choosing to let two children die, and to seriously hurt two more kids while also depriving them of both their siblings and their mom. Everyone can make of that what they will.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.


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