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Police: Mother Accused Of Killing Children Attempted Exorcism Before

GERMANTOWN, Md. (WJZ) -- New disturbing details about the mother accused of killing her children during an exorcism. She belonged to a church group called the "Demon Assassins."

Police and prosecutors also say she attempted an exorcism the day before the killings.

Mike Hellgren has new insight on this troubled case.

According to prosecutors, the man who was supposed to undergo that exorcism never showed up. The mother and her friend became convinced demons were inside the children.

Prosecutors say Zakieya Avery, the mom charged, along with her friend -- Monifa Sanford -- with murdering her two youngest children during an exorcism was a member of a small church group in Germantown called the "Demon Assassins."

The mom claimed to be a commander of the group, who'd performed exorcisms before.

"Both defendants alleged that the demon leapt from the body of the last child into Ms. Avery and then attacked Ms. Sanford, who did suffer some fairly substantial injuries herself," said John McCarthy, Montgomery County State's Attorney.

Authorities say Avery stabbed both toddlers after snapping the neck of her 1-year-old boy, then bathed the dead children and wrapped them in blankets--so they would be clean when they saw God.

"It was the state's request that she be transferred immediately to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital for us to get an immediate evaluation of her psychiatric condition," McCarthy said.

To get perspective on this case, WJZ turned to an anthropology professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, who's spent years studying exorcisms.

"The surprising thing to me is I wasn't terribly surprised," said Dr. Bill Stuart, University of Maryland anthropologist.

But Stuart says rarely do they involve death, and rarely are the victims so young.

"Picking on children is rather extraordinary," Stuart said.

The mother had a history of mental illness, financial troubles and recently split with her husband.

"The mother seems to have been a deeply troubled person. She apparently was more the leader and the other woman was more the follower. And you often find that kind of dependency," said Stuart.

It is unclear whether either of the women will be mentally competent to stand trial.

Sanford will be back in court Friday. She will likely have a new defense attorney.

Avery had two older children who were injured during the exorcism, but they survived.

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