A Maryland judge ruled Tuesday that two women police believe were attempting to perform exorcisms on four children were to undergo psychiatric evaluation to determine if they were mentally competent enough to stand trial. They were also held without bond, the Associated Press reported (via Yahoo News) Jan. 21. Both are charged with two counts of first degree murder and two counts of attempted first degree murder after Montgomery County police found two toddlers stabbed to death and two other children, ages five and eight, bleeding from stab wounds in a Germantown home.
According to WJZ (Baltimore) and the Associated Press, police said that the women told them they were part of a group called the "Demon Assassins." An investigation is underway to ascertain if there are other members in the group in order to interview them.
In new details released to the public, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said that the women had disclosed that evil spirits moved into the bodies of the children in a successive order and that an exorcism was necessary to drive the demons out.
The women, 28-year-old Zakieya Latrice Avery (mother of the four children) and 21-year-old Monifa Denise Sanford, also stated that they saw the eyes of each children blackening. After the exorcism, the two women took a shower and cleaned up the scene of the stabbings. In their words, McCarthy said that they “prepared the children to see God."
Police responded to a neighbor's call on Friday morning, CNN reported, after they discovered a knife lying next to a car with an open door.
Authorities had been called to the house the night before when a neighbor had become concerned about a child that had been left alone in the car for at least an hour. However, when police arrived, the child had been taken into the house, the occupants refusing to answer when the police knocked.
Of the two surviving children, the eight-year-old boy was close to being released from the hospital Tuesday. However, the five-year-old girl was still listed in critical condition.
Capt. Marcus Jones, director of the county police department's major crimes division, said the 911 call probably saved the two older children's lives. "If that call doesn't come in, we don't think that those two children get medical help in time to possibly save their lives," he said.
Monifa Sanford is believed to have lived at the residence with Avery.
Avery was part of a dance troupe at her church, a Christian sect called Exousia Ministries International. Jones said that Avery's job at the church, "as a lover of Christ, was that she was going to keep demons away."
State's Attorney McCarthy added, "It's based on those stories, that information, that presentation and the psychiatric history ... that we made the recommendations that these two defendants immediately be seen by doctors to tell us where we stand in terms of competency as to both."
Avery and Jones could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.