Maryland Mother Kills Her Toddlers in 'Exorcism'

2 older siblings also hurt but expected to survive

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 19, 2014 9:30 AM CST

(Newser) – A Maryland mother and a second woman stand accused of killing two toddlers and attempting to kill two more in what they say was an exorcism. The Washington Post reports that 1-year-old Norell Harris and 2-year-old Zyana Harris were found stabbed multiple times and dead in the bed of their mother, Zakieya Avery, 28, on Friday morning. Their older siblings, Taniya Harris, 5, and Martello Harris, 8, had been injured as well but are expected to live. Though the women say they believed the children had been possessed—Monifa Sanford, 21, who lived with the family, was also charged—police say the women were not adhering to any defined exorcism ritual.

The Post and Baltimore Sun report on a jarring potential missed opportunity: A neighbor called police around 9:45pm Thursday night after seeing a child alone in a car parked outside the Germantown townhouse; he says two women then emerged and collected the child, telling him to steer clear of their business (he can be overheard in the 911 call saying he was making it his business). The police then arrived, but no one answered the door, and after finding no probable cause that would allow them to enter, left roughly 40 minutes later. Police say neighbors heard noises overnight, but nothing significant enough to warrant a 911 call. On Friday morning, a neighbor saw a knife near the car, and blood. Police were able to get keys for the house from that car, whose door was open, and entered; Avery ran, but was soon apprehended. Police say the older children likely survived because of that second 911 call. (Click for more on how the two suspects met.)

This photo released by the Montgomery County Police Dept shows Zakieya Latrice Avery, 28.   (AP Photo/Montgomery County Police Dept.)
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