Police: Maryland Mom Kills Two of Her Toddlers In Exorcism Attempt

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 19 2014 1:33 PM

Police: Maryland Mom Kills Two of Her Toddlers In Exorcism Attempt

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Photograph of Zakieya Latrice Avery released by the Montgomery County Police

Montgomery County Police

A 28-year-old mother reportedly murdered two of her children and severely injured two others, in what was an apparent attempt at an exorcism.  Zakieya Avery and another woman who is 21 years old were reportedly attempting to release demonic spirits they thought had possessed the siblings, reports the Washington Post.  They were each charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. The two dead toddlers—Norell Harris, 1, and his sister, Zyana Harris, 2—were found Friday morning on their mother’s bed with multiple stab wounds. Two other siblings—a 5-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy—also had stab wounds but were expected to survive. Even though the women apparently believed they were carrying out an exorcism it didn’t seem as though they had followed any ritual.

“This was all about what was in their minds,” said Capt. Marcus Jones, commander of the Montgomery County’s major crimes unit. “They felt like there was something bad going on with the children, and they were trying to release it.”

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One of the most distressing aspects of this tragedy is that it seems police may have been able to prevent it. On Thursday, police went to the home where the murders took place after a caller reported seeing a child alone in a car, reports the Baltimore Sun. But when officers arrived at the scene, the child had been taken inside the home and no one answered the door. They stayed more than 40 minutes but didn’t find enough probable cause to force their way inside the house so they left.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.