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Attempted exorcism cited in death of two Md. toddlers

GERMANTOWN, Md. - The mother of two dead children in Maryland has been charged with their murder, along with another woman, in what police say may have been an exorcism gone wrong.

Two toddlers were stabbed to death and two other children were seriously wounded inside a home in Germantown, just a few miles northwest of Washington, D.C.


Zakieya Latrice Avery WJZ-TV
 Montgomery County Police say their own mother, 28-year-old Zakieya Latrice Avery, and a second woman, 21-year-old Monifa Sanford, killed the children as they tried to perform what they believed to be an exorcism, reports CBS Baltimore.

The horrific scene was overwhelming even for veteran law enforcement.

“These are hard cases. That’s it. Thank you,” said John McCarthy, Montgomery Co. State’s Attorney.

Police identified the deceased children as one-year-old Norell and two-year-old Zyana Harris. Avery’s other two children, ages five and eight, remain in the hospital.

It was neighbors that called police early Friday morning after spotting a blood trail and knife outside the home.

“I was walking first around 7:15 with my dog and I see the knife on the floor very close to the car,” said Elisa Aloras.

One witness, who didn’t want to be identified, said as police charged the front door, the children’s mother and Sanford tried to escape out the back door.

“These officers tackled one person and then the other person ran into a vehicle,” she said.

Neighbors are now trying to understand why Avery, who by most accounts seemed like a normal mother, would do something so unthinkable.

“Just like a young 20-year-old with kids. Single mother. She seemed happy to move into the neighborhood,” said Timothy Darden.

“Shocked, but devastated at the same time because there’s kids involved and you hate to see or hear something happened to kids. I’m still kind of devastated by it,” said Michelle Smith.

Both women have been charged with murder and attempted murder.

Police say an investigation continues into the alleged exorcism and motive.

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