An exorcism was claimed as the reason for a Maryland stabbing that resulted in the deaths of two children and the arrests of two women, police said Saturday. Montgomery County Police said that Zakieya Latrice Avery, 28, and another woman attempted an exorcism on Avery’s four children. The incident saw Norell Harris, 1, and his sister Zyana Harris, 2, sent to hospital with multiple stab wounds while their older siblings, 5 and 8, were injured and hospitalized.
Taniya Harris, Avery’s 5-year-old daughter, and Martello Harris, the oldest sibling, remained in hospital. No update regarding the siblings’ condition has been released.
Avery was hit with two first degree murder charges and two charges of attempted murder. Another woman, Monifa Denise Sanford, 21, was also charged. Sanford was believed to be living at Avery’s residence. The police were contacted Friday morning after a vehicle was found outside the residence with the door open. A knife was lying outside the vehicle.
State’s Attorney John McCarthy struggled to maintain his composure as he talked to reporters. His voice broke as he said that cases where parents attack their children are the most challenging because no father or grandfather could imagine a mother turning on her children.
Exorcism is a ritual where those performing the rite are attempting to get rid of demons or evil spirits in the person or thing possessed. While exorcism is claimed as the reason for the Maryland stabbing, police aren’t revealing why they believe exorcism is the reason why these children were so brutally injured.
This is not the first time that police have turned up at Avery’s home. They were called to the residence the night before after neighbors saw a young child unattended in a vehicle. By the time police arrived, though, the child was gone, having presumably returned to the home. Police added that no one answered the door when they arrived to enquire about the child.
Both Avery and Sanford have been held without bond, and police have said when they arrived on the bloody scene, they found the children and rushed them to hospital. Both women were still on scene when police arrived, though Avery reportedly raced out of the back of the home when police arrived. She was apprehended by police quickly.
Exorcism has been making headlines since the movie The Exorcist bowed in the 1970s. Since then, the ritual has been performed globally hundreds of times, with the Archbishop of Calcutta, Henry Sebastian D’Souza admitting he ordered an exorcism performed on Mother Teresa in 1997 prior to her death. The nun is not the only famous Catholic to be linked to the ritual, and the Catholic Church has at least 10 official exorcists.
According to Fordham University sociologist Michael Cuneo, the Catholic Church is loath to approve an exorcism, and the majority of those performing one are from one of the Protestant religions. Cuneo says there could be as many as 600 or more exorcist ministries in operation, or there could be more.
As exorcism is claimed as the reason for the Maryland stabbing that killed two young children, investigations into the motives for the stabbing continue.
By Christina St-Jean