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Sinister exorcism ritual leaves toddlers stabbed dead by mother

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Montgomery County Police rushed to a town home in the 19000 block of Cherry Bend Drive, in Germantown, Maryland this past Friday, after a 911 call indicated a vehicle with the door open and a bloody knife laying outside of it. Officers made a horrific discovery in the town home of Zakieya Latrice Avery, 28, as two of her four young children lay stabbed to death, in what the New York Post reports, was the result of an exorcism performed by Avery and her roommate. Responding officers described the crime scene as "very bloody".

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Two of Avery's young children, Zyana Z. Harris, 2, and Norell N. Harris, 1, were pronounced dead at the scene, victims of multiple stab wounds as reported by ABC news. Avery's two older children, Taniya Harris, 5, and Martello Harris, 8, also suffered injuries and were transported to Children's National Medical Center, where they remain hospitalized. Police immediately took Avery into custody after she tried to flee the town home. Monifa Denise Sanford, 21, who also lived at the residence, assisted in the exorcism. She was taken into custody yesterday, after being released from an area hospital. ABC news quoted Montgomery County Police Chief, Tom Manger, who said of the tragedy,

"Cases like this are heartbreaking. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victims along with the 911 operators, police officers, evidence technicians, and fire and EMS personnel that responded."

As far as what ABC news has learned, the whole incident began Thursday night, when police responded to a 911 call by a neighbor reporting a child left unattended in a vehicle. Prior to officers arriving, two women exited the townhouse, retrieved the child, and re-entered the home. Officers attempted to speak with the residents but received no response at the door. Montgomery County Child Protective Services was notified about the report and was asked to follow up on the incident, as posted on the Montgomery County Police website.

Avery told investigators that she thought an exorcism of her children was necessary to remove the presence of the devil and evil spirits, said Capt. Marcus Jones, director of the police department's major crimes division, to ABC news. Sanford, 21, made similar statements during questioning, police said. Apparently, the children were fast asleep in their beds when the brutal stabbings took place.

Avery and Sanford will both face two counts of first degree murder and two count of attempted first degree murder, and are currently being held without bond. Anyone with information that could shed light on this unimaginable crime is asked to call Montgomery County detectives at the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070. Anyone with information who wishes to remain anonymous should call Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS.

If you have a story idea, or see human errors (typos) in the article you've just read, email Pam DeWitt at To anonymously receive more crime news articles, including those on filicide (parents who kill their own children), be sure to click on the "SUBSCRIBE" button at the top. Thank you for reading, and please share this article.



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