Mental Illness Common Thread in Recent Murders

Within a week, two young children and a 7-Eleven clerk were brutally killed in Montgomery County.

The county's state's attorney is saying the common thread between the three deaths is mental illness. 

Two women who police say killed two young children while performing what they thought was an exorcism remained held without bond and will have psychiatric evaluations to determine if they are competent to stand trial, a judge said earlier this week. 

Sources tell News4 the mother of the children, 28-year-old Zakieya Latrice Avery, has been diagnosed as schizophrenic. Monica Sanford, who lived with Avery and her four children, told police she has tried to commit suicide at least two times.

The women referred to themselves as "Demon Assassins," and say they tried to kill the children because a demon was jumping from one child's body to the other. Prosecutors say the two women had planned to perform an exorcism on a man the night prior, but he didn't show up to the Germantown home. Sanford and Avery told police they had performed several exorcisms in the past.

Police are looking for two men who the women say are also members of the "Demon Assassins." They do not believe the men pose a threat to the community.

Shaun King, 36, is accused of stabbing a 7-Eleven clerk more than 70 times, then standing over his body for more than 6 minutes. King has been diagnosed as schizophrenic and is now on suicide watch.

"These three individual murders are not the result of drug violence, gang violence. They do have a common factor. Some level of mental illness," Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said. 

McCarthy said the cases have left him questioning if there has been enough funding for mental health services.

"One thing is abundantly clear. The services that are there are not adequate to meet demand," McCarthy said. 

He said statistics show the county has a growing mental health problem. In the past year, the number of people locked up by the county has decreased, but in the same time frame, there is a 30 percent increase in the number of those referred for mental health treatment at time of intake.

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