Mother charged with killing children she believed needed to be exorcised

A Maryland woman charged with killing two of her children has told police officers she thought an exorcism was necessary to remove the presence of the devil and evil spirits.

Zakieya Latrice Avery, 28, of Germantown, is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing deaths of the children, ages one and two. Montgomery County police responded to Avery’s home following a neighbour’s 911 call.

Police said they found the two children dead and two other siblings, ages 5 and 8, injured with stab wounds.

“She thought the devil was in the kids, and that’s sort of the thing she centred it around as to why she had to conduct an exorcism,” said Captain 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.

The two women had been living together at the house in recent months.

Jones said the father of the children does not live in the area and is separated from Avery, but was returning to be with the surviving children, who remained hospitalised.

Both women were being held on charges of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.

Police said officers went to Avery’s row house community north of Washington, DC, when a neighbour called 911 after noticing a car with the door open and a knife lying outside of the vehicle. Officers recovered two knives from the home.

The children died from multiple stab wounds, Jones said.

Jones said the women are believed to have met each other at a church, which he identified as Exousia Ministries in Germantown.

The pastor of that congregation, Darryl Jones, declined to discuss the case.

Avery’s stepgrandmother, Sylvia Wade, told The Washington Post that Avery was “humble and meek” and said she loved her children.


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