A 28-year-old mother, along with her 21-year-old female associate, was charged Saturday in the killing of two of her children and the wounding of her two other kids supposedly to drive out demons out of the siblings, according to Maryland police.
Police in Montgomery County, Md., charged the mother, identified as Zakieya Latrice Avery, and her associate, Monifa Denise Sanford, with murder in the death of two of Avery's children, a 1-year-old boy named Norell Harris and a 2-year-old girl named Zyana Harris, The Associated Press reported.
Police, who discovered a "very bloody scene" upon entering Avery's home Friday morning, said the two children were stabbed many times, according to CBS News.
Avery and Sanford are also facing attempted murder charges for injuring the children's siblings, 5-year-old Taniya Harris, a girl, and 8-year-old Martello Harris, a boy. The two kids remained hospitalized at Children's National Medical Center Saturday but were said to be out of danger.
The two woman each face two counts of first degree murder and two counts of attempted first degree murder, and were being held without bond.
Sanford, who also received some injuries, lived with Avery and the children in Germantown, Md. Avery wasn't hurt at all, police said.
"They felt like there was something bad going on with the children, and they were trying to release it," The Washington Post quoted Capt. Marcus Jones, commander of the county's major crimes unit, as saying. "The Devil was the enemy in their eyes," he said of the women.
Two knives – one about the size of a paring knife and the other a bit larger – were found at the scene, according to police. Had a neighbor not called to inform the police in time, the older children "might not have survived either," Jones added.
A neighbor, Elisa Aloras, told CBS she saw a small kitchen knife on the ground close to a dark blue or green car early Friday. Later, she saw the same car with its rear passenger door open and a blue coat on the ground.
"Cases like this are heartbreaking," Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victims along with the 911 operators, police officers, evidence technicians, and fire and EMS personnel that responded."
A minister whose church Avery attended was quoted as saying that the mother, who had separated from her husband, received mental health counseling and moved twice in recent years, from Western Maryland to Ohio and then to Montgomery.
Sylvia Wade, Avery's step-grandmother, said she is "humble and meek."
"I don't know what triggered it. She wasn't herself. When a person is not of themselves, they are not responsible for what they are doing. They are in another zone," Wade was quoted as saying.
Avery was active on Facebook. On Nov. 21, 2011, she wrote, "People are being deceived left and right every day and don't care to realize it. They think it's safe and everything's a game when this world is owned by Satan himself who wants to dumb us down to think there's no consequences for what we do."
At the time of the posting, Avery was living in Hagerstown, Md., and attended Maranatha Brethren Church. The church's pastor, Dan Thornton, was quoted as saying that members regularly drove her to mental health counseling sessions.