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Two children dead in DC suburb after woman performs exorcism

The scene outside of the home where Norell Harris, 1, and Zyana Harris, 2, were both killed as a result of the attempted exorcism.
The scene outside of the home where Norell Harris, 1, and Zyana Harris, 2, were both killed as a result of the attempted exorcism.
Photo Sarah L. Voisin

A horrific bloody scene was discovered Friday morning in Germantown, MD. Norrell Harris, a 1-year-old male, and Zyana Harris, a 2-year-old female were lying dead in their home due to multiple stab wounds.

According to police, who arrived on the 1900 block of Cherry Bend Drive around 9:30am Friday, the 28-year-old mother, Zakieya Latrice Avery, killed two of her children and severely injured two others during a botched exorcism attempt.

An exorcism is the act of driving out demons, or evil spirits, from persons, places, or anything that is believed to be possessed or infested by them.

A second woman, Monifa Denise Sanford, 21, was also arrested. Both women were charged with two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder.

Sanford was injured during the incident and was treated at a local hospital. A 5-year-old and 8-year-old found on the scene were also injured and are receiving medical treatment, according to Montgomery police.

Police have not yet released any details about what happened inside the home, saying it was still under investigation.

Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger said in a statement, “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 the fire and EMS personnel that responded."

Originally the police had been called to the residence the night before when a neighbor spotted an unattended child in a car. The mother and her roommate exited the house and got the child right before police arrived.

The women refused to talk to police officers when they approached the door. According to Montgomery County Police the county's Child Protective Services were told of the incident and asked to follow up.

Capt. Jim Daly said Friday that neighbors described a commotion coming from the home on two occasions during the night but no one called police.

Neighbor, Elisa Aloras, was walking her dog around 7:15 a.m. Friday when she noticed a small kitchen knife on the ground close to a car. Later, while driving by, she saw the same car with its rear passenger door open and she saw a blue coat on the ground.

Police describe the inside of the home as a “very bloody scene”. Ms. Aloras, as most people involved in the case say, “It is just so sad.”