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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The Zakieya Avery Exorcism Murder Case

     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 was one of 600 or more non-Catholic churches around the world where exorcism was practiced.) The 28-year-old mother of four and her husband, Martin Luther Harris, Jr., were separated. He lived 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 the community north of Washington, D.C. dialed 911 to report an 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 ran out of the house through her back door but didn't get far. Inside the dwelling officers discovered the dead bodies of one-year-old Norell Harris and his two-year-old sister Zyana. The children had been 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 Monifa Sanford. Both women were 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 were 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 officer both suspects had 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."

     In January 2015, after Monifa Sanford pleaded guilty to the assaults and two murders the judge declared her legally insane and sentenced her to an indeterminate incarceration at a state psychiatric hospital.

     On September 15, 2016 Zakieya Avery also pleaded guilty to the murders and the assaults. A Montgomery County, Maryland judge ruled that she was also legally insane at the time she attacked her children. Instead of prison the judge sent Avery to a maximum security psychiatric hospital where she would stay until her doctors declared her sane enough to leave the mental institution.

1 comment:

  1. Hi. What is the current update on these two women? I lived a few houses down from them on the day of the murders. I still live in the same place. I walk my dogs many times a day walking past this house. It's currently occupied. Thanks!