Police release 911 recordings in Germantown exorcism deaths

Police release 911 recordings in Germantown exorcism deaths

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Zakieya Latrice Avery (Montgomery County Police Department) Zakieya Latrice Avery (Montgomery County Police Department)
Monifa Denise Sanford (Montgomery County Police Department) Monifa Denise Sanford (Montgomery County Police Department)
GERMANTOWN, Md. -

Montgomery County police have released recordings of 911 calls related to the gruesome murders of two young children in a Germantown townhouse last Friday.

In one of those calls, a neighbor tells police the children's mother was talking to herself the night before the attack. He says they were confronting him because he called police after noticing a small child alone in a car for nearly an hour that night last Thursday.

The caller says the women said they left the child in the car because of what was going on inside their home.

Outside the murder scene on Cherry Bend Drive, there is a growing memorial to the four Harris siblings.

The youngest two were found stabbed to death inside their home. The older two were injured in the knife attack.

Their 28-year-old mother, Zakieya Avery, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

Police say Avery claims she murdered her children during an exorcism because they were possessed.

Another woman, Monifa Sanford, 21, is also charged with murder. Police say she also lived in the home.

"I suspect you are going to find that they thought they were doing a righteous act," says Dr. William Stuart, a professor of anthropology at the University of Maryland.

He is an expert on exorcisms who says what happened in this case does not have the earmarks of a traditional exorcism -- formal or otherwise.

"Because in general, this level of killing a person, especially if it's your own child or children, seems to be beyond the pale of legitimacy," he says.

According to those who knew the family, the killings were more than likely a manifestation of the mother's mental illness.

"Mental health is a big issue," says neighbor Robert Wooden. "And I think we really need to step up and supply these people with the help they need."

In this case, help that came too late or didn't work.

Avery and Sanford are due in court Tuesday.


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