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Women Charged in Exorcism Killings of Children Likely to Use Insanity Defense

The women told police they believed the children were possessed by demons and were trying to get rid of the evil spirits.

Montgomery County police charged Zakieya Latrice Avery (left) and Monifa Denise Sanford (right) in the killings of Avery's children. Photo Credit: MCPD
Montgomery County police charged Zakieya Latrice Avery (left) and Monifa Denise Sanford (right) in the killings of Avery's children. Photo Credit: MCPD

A Germantown mother and her her roommate, both accused of killing two children during an exorcism, will likely use insanity defenses at their trials later this year.

A Montgomery County Circuit judge Friday set a trial date of July 28 for Zakieya Avery, the mother charged with killing her two children, reports WTOP.

On Jan. 17, police discovered the bodies of a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old in the master bedroom of the women's Germantown townhouse. Avery's other two children were severely wounded.

When interviewed by police, Avery and her roommate, Monifa Sanford, reportedly described seeing the children’s eyes blacken as demons entered their bodies, jumping from one child to the next. They claimed the exorcism was needed to cast out the demons.

Police said Avery and Sanford, who was injured during the exorcism, met through Exousia Ministries in Germantown.

Avery also allegedly stabbed and injured her other two children. She is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder.

Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said Avery will likely enter a plea of insanity in the near future.

Both Avery and Sanford have been sent to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital in Jessup, Md. Psychological tests are needed in order to determine whether the women are competent to stand trial.

Sanford was a professed member of a group called  “Demon Assassins,” which police say was led by Avery. 

In a separate court appearance Friday, Sanford, who is charged with same offenses, entered a plea.

"Ms. Sanford, through her attorney, filed a plea that we anticipated, which is a plea of not criminally responsible, which is tantamount to basically pleading insanity at the time of the crime," McCarthy said in the WTOP story.

Sanford will undergo a mental evaluation. Her trial is scheduled for Aug. 25.

Patch’s Earlier Stories:

Roommate Charged in ‘Exorcism’ Killings Transferred to Maximum Security Hospital

Mother to Undergo Psychiatric Evaluation, Held Without Bond in Toddlers' Death

Police: Children Killed in Attempted 'Exorcism'

911 Tapes in ‘Exorcism’ Killings: ‘I’ve Never Seen Something Like This’

Judge Orders Mental Evaluation for Roommate in ‘Demon Assassin’ Slayings of 2 Toddlers

Sharon April 07, 2014 at 11:02 AM
We, as a society, definitely have a 'mental health issue' to seriously address. But we also have those out there who are 'pure evil'. And it's almost alarming how that plea of "The devil made me do it" is going to be used and abused by lawyers who have absolutely 'no other justifiable defense'. In this case, appears premeditation and knowledge of what they were about to do and what they did. We have to remember! Innocent people who claim they 'killed' children to SAVE THEM, don't run from the law as they did!!!!
jonaD May 03, 2014 at 10:34 AM
'Premeditation' is also an inappropriate metric of judgement. The mentally disturbed are not the same as those who's passions rise above their controllable thresholds. Normal people who premeditate murder should be treated different than those who are pushed emotionally to a limit that they lose control at, as those two conditions are distinct and separate. But mentally ill people ARE premeditators, as a habit, that's part of their mental illness, to obsess and be consumed on a constant basis. So that metric, is not applicable to them.
Justin case April 08, 2014 at 10:36 AM
There is no insanity in this case, just pure evil. If they were truly insane at the time of the killings then that means they didn't know right from wrong. These two evil do'ers knew exactly what they were doing. They both belonged to an "evil assassin" group which means they both were practicing this type of evil. Hell, one was the teacher and other person was the student. They obviously knew right from wrong over the time period they were studying this evil. If ever a time for the death penalty, this obviously is the case for it.
jonaD May 03, 2014 at 10:26 AM
It's obvious she is insane, as only an insane person would do what she did and use the excuses she is using. The problem is, our society has no effective standardized method of dealing with the criminally insane, much less average criminals... so I can understand why people are perturbed when they think she could be sent to some hot springs environment where she will get personal body massages, watch TV all day, do her nails, play tennis and get a tan... or whatever their fantasies are for someone not sent to the mainstream jails. BUT... nonetheless, she is criminally insane and her state's special process, already in place, is where she should be placed.

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