Mom enters guilty plea in ‘exorcism' deaths of children

'Exorcism killer' enters guilty plea

GERMANTOWN, MD. (WUSA9) - A Germantown mother accused of killing her two children in an exorcism entered a guilty plea, officials said.

Zakieya Avery, 31, entered guilty pleas Monday for the stabbing death of two children and the stabbing of two more during what she told investigators, was an exorcism. Avery faces four life sentences in prison for the 2014 attack. If she's not found guilty, she could be sent to a psychiatric facility.

Authorities arrested Avery and her live-in friend as well as romantic partner in Germantown, MD on the morning of January 17th 2014. They found knives outside, neighbors reported screaming. Prosecutors say Avery and Monifa Sanford believed they were part of a group called the "Demon Assassins.”

Police charged the two with brutally choking and stabbing Avery’s one and two-year-old, Norell and Zyana Harris, who they believed were possessed.

Court documents describe an attack on the two youngest children before turning knives to the two older children. The 8-year-old’s father wept on cell phone video saying last year, his son witnessed everything.

In the beginning, Avery told investigators she blacked out. “It's kind of like a blur,” read court documents.
A Montgomery County judge listened to the testimonies of mental health professionals, family members and a witness, which went into the early evening Monday.

Family members and prosecutors revealed a lengthy history of mental illness. Avery’s mother told investigators, not only did she once have Avery committed, but she herself has been hospitalized multiple times for mental illness. It was also revealed in court several other relatives on the suspect’s maternal side suffer from mental illness.

Avery’s clinical history record stretches across multiple states, said investigators, who also said she hadn’t been taking her prescribed medication before the gruesome attack.

"It's time to stop ignoring it because how many more are going to have to be drowned in a bathtub, how many more babies are going to have to be thrown ... it's a very big deal in this country and needs to be taken more seriously,” said Avery’s cousin, Kaliha Brooks, pleading with the public to pay more attention to mental illness and possible signs.

Brooks tells WUSA 9 she does not believe her cousin is criminally responsible. “I feel like most of us are kind of, in a way, a little bit responsible because we see that there were signs but because you don’t want to stop on someone’s tries or you don’t want to risk someone’s children taken away or you don’t think that maybe a person is capable of doing those things, you kind of push them to the back burner,” Brooks said.

She burst into tears and ran out of the courtroom as a prosecutor read the details of the attack out loud.

Last January a judge found the other suspect, Sanford, not criminally responsible on similar charges. WUSA 9 reports Sanford also entered a guilty plea and was committed to a psychiatric facility.

Investigators say Sanford and Avery met in church and became close friends. Sanford then moved in when Avery separated from her husband.

Court documents describe an illusion of a romantic relationship where each suspect claimed the other had channeled the spirit of a boyfriend.
















A Germantown mother accused of killing her two children in an exorcism entered a guilty plea, officials said.

Zakieya Avery is charged with the stabbing deaths of her 1-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter.

Right now a judge is trying to figure out if she is in fact criminally responsible.

The Washington Post reports Avery has received mental health counseling.

Her two older children were injured in the attack but survived.

Avery’s roommate, Monifa Sanford, pled guilty last year and was committed to a mental institution.


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