Mom sent to mental hospital for killing 2 kids in exorcism

2016-09-16 05:38


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Rockville — A Maryland woman who pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing two of her children and injuring their two older siblings in what she believed was an exorcism will go to a psychiatric hospital, not prison, a judge ruled on Thursday.

Zakieya Avery of Germantown, Maryland, pleaded guilty earlier this week to two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder, but it was up to a judge to decide whether she was criminally responsible in the deaths of her children in 2014.

Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Terrence McGann called the children's murders "brutal and sadistic". But he said the testimony he heard about Avery's behaviour before the stabbings provided "strong evidence" that Avery was "delusional" when she and her housemate stabbed the children: 18-month-old Norell Harris and two-year-old Zyana Harris, both of whom died, and their older siblings, eight-year-old Martello Harris and five-year-old Taniya Harris.

Avery, 31, and her housemate believed the children were possessed by demons. The women's bizarre behaviour before the killings included writing extensively in a shared journal about demons and imagined spirit boyfriends. The women, who believed they were "demon warriors," at one point lived in a car for nine days in order to avoid demons in their house; they did not bathe or eat for several days during that time.

The judge noted that Avery had previously been treated for mental health issues at several facilities and had been prescribed medication but threw it away because she believed "God had delivered her from her mental illness". Despite the fact that she had a surgical procedure to prevent pregnancy, Avery said God had reversed the procedure and she was pregnant with twins. The judge found that during the murders Avery was suffering from bipolar disorder with "psychotic features" and "borderline personality disorder".

"I find that Miss Avery's ritualistic, albeit barbaric, attempt to rid her children of demons is powerful evidence of the lack of rational thinking," the judge said.

After the judge's ruling, Avery's attorney, Brian Shefferman, called the case "tragic" and said he believed the judge had reached the correct decision. He said it will be years before Avery might be considered for release.

Avery was in court to hear the judge read his ruling but showed no visible reaction to the decision, looking over at her attorney shortly after the judge said he found her not criminally responsible.

Avery's cousin, Kaliha Brooks, said after the hearing that Avery was a "very loving mother" and called it "mind-boggling" that Avery killed her children.

"I can honestly say that my cousin absolutely adored and loved her children," Brooks said.

Avery's housemate and friend, Monifa Sanford, who participated in the killings, previously took a plea deal in the case and was also committed to a psychiatric hospital.

Read more on:    us

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.