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Maryland mom arrested for murdering toddlers during exorcism

Painting of Saint Francis Borgia performing an exorcism by Goya

28-year old Zakieya Latrice Avery of Germantown, MD and a housemate Monifa Denise Sanford, 21 have been arrested for first-degree murder in the deaths of Avery’s two of her children, Norrell Harris age 1 and Zyana Harris, 2, after trying to perform an exorcism to “rid them of the devil.” Her two older childrem ages 5 & 8 were found with several stab wounds a piece according to Captain Marcus Jones of the Montgomery County Police Department.

According to authorities, police were called to the scene by neighbors who reported seeing a trail of blood outside Avery’s residence. They then discovered the children inside an open with a knife lying outside of it Friday morning.

The women were arrested as they tried to flee from the house. Police are continuing to investigate their motives.

Simply put, exorcisms have been used for centuries to “cure” people believed to be “possessed by the devil,” although many of them are now believed to have actually suffered from physical and mental symptoms now associated with illnesses such as epilepsy, mania, hysteria, psychosis, Tourette's syndrome, schizophrenia or possibly dissociative identity disorder.

While often associated most closely with with Roman Catholic belief in this country, exorcisms have been performed by many other religions and cultures including Hinduism and Islam, where it is referred to as a ruqya, and is performed to counteract “the damage caused by sihr (black magic). Certain rituals have also been practised by religious Jews since the days of the Essenes.
Depending on the spiritual beliefs, an exorcism may involve anything from simply demanding the demons to depart the victim’s body in the name of an higher entity, swearing an oath, drinking holy water or more elaborate rituals performed by priests and other “holy men.”

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