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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Zakieya Avery Kills Two Children in Botched Exorcism

     Zakieya Latrice Avery resided in a Germantown, Maryland row house with her four children, ages one through eight. Twenty-one-year old Monifa Sanford lived under the same roof with the Avery family. The women had met at a church called Exousia Ministries of Germantown. (It is one of 600 or more non-Catholic churches around the world where exorcism is practiced.) The 28-year-old mother of four and her husband, Martin Luther Harris, Jr., are separated. He lives in Los Angeles. Zakieya had once resided in Gaithersburg, Maryland where she had worked as a pharmacy technician.

     On Thursday night, January 16, 2014, one of Zakieya Avery's neighbors in this community north of Washington, D.C. dialed 911 to report on unattended child inside a car outside the Avery house. When officers with the Montgomery County Police Department responded to the 911 call the child was no longer in the vehicle. Officers knocked on Avery's door but no one answered. The officers left the scene but reported the matter to a child protection agency.

     The next morning at 9:30, the concerned neighbor called 911 again. This time the caller reported a car with its doors standing open parked outside the Avery residence. A bloody knife lay on the ground near the vehicle.

     Upon the arrival of the police, Zakeiya Avery bolted out the back door but didn't get very far. Inside the dwelling, officers discovered the dead bodies of one-year-old Norell Harris and his two-year-old sister Zyana. The toddlers had been each stabbed several times. It appeared they had been attacked while sleeping. In another bedroom, officers found five-year-old Taniya and eight-year-old Martello. These two children had also been stabbed but were alive. The two wounded siblings were rushed to a nearby hospital.

     Avery's adult housemate, Monifa Sanford, was also taken to a hospital where she was treated for cuts.

     Police officers took Zakieya Avery into custody at the scene. The next day detectives arrested Sanford. Both women have been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. Police officers booked the suspects into the Montgomery County Jail where they are being held without bond.

     A few days after the murder arrests, Captain Marcus Jones, head of the major crimes unit, told reporters that Zakieya Avery thought her kids were possessed by the Devil which led to a botched exorcism procedure and the deaths. Monifa Sanford was in custody because she had assisted in the deadly ritual. According to the police, both suspects have confessed.

     Avery's step-grandmother, Sylvia Wade, told a reporter with the Washington Post that Avery was "humble and meek" and said she loved her children. "I don't know what triggered it. She wasn't herself." Indeed. If anyone was possessed by the Devil, it wasn't these young, helpless victims.
   

      

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