Judge to Rule Whether Md. Mother Who Killed Children During Exorcism Was Insane

WASHINGTON — One day after Zakieya Avery pleaded guilty to murdering her two youngest children during an exorcism, a Montgomery County judge will consider whether she was criminally insane during the 2014 attacks.

Circuit Court judge Terrence McGann described the Avery’s actions with housemate Monifa Sanford in their Germantown townhouse as “gruesome and chilling.”

As part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, Avery admitted she and Sanford killed her one-year old son and two-year-old daughter because the women believed demons had invaded the bodies of the children.

In January 2015, Sanford, now 24, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder.

Sanford was found not criminally responsible — the Maryland equivalent of an insanity defense — and has been committed to the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital for an undetermined period of time.

On Monday, Neil Blumberg, a psychiatrist retained by the defense, testified Avery was under the delusional belief that the violence against her children would save them from eternal damnation.

Blumberg concluded Avery was not criminally responsible for the brutal crimes.

“She clearly at the time thought this was the proper and moral thing to do,” Blumberg testified.

In court, Avery’s attorney Brian Shefferman played a video recording of his client, alone in an interrogation room, quietly touching her skin, seemingly intent on a task.

Blumberg told the judge it appeared Avery was talking to something that wasn’t present.

Family members testified Monday Avery had a long history of mental illness.

Cousin Kaliha Ebony Brooks recalled Avery spoke with her about her illnesses, and witnessed her cousin apparently hearing voices.

Avery’s mother told the judge she had her daughter involuntarily committed to an institution when she was “manic and suicidal.”

Prosecutors and the defense will make closing arguments Tuesday.

If Avery is found not criminally responsible, she would likely be sent to Perkins.

Judge McGann told Avery if he determines she was aware of the criminality of the murders, she could be sentenced to four consecutive life sentences.

McGann has indicated he will issue a ruling in the near future.

The post Judge to rule whether Md. mother who killed children during exorcism was insane appeared first on WTOP.

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