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Insanity defenses likely in Germantown exorcism murders

Police were called to the 19000 block of Cherry Bend Drive in Germantown, Md. at 9:31 a.m. Friday. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)

ROCKVILLE, Md. – The two women accused of killing children during an exorcism in Germantown, Md. will likely use insanity defenses.

A Montgomery County Circuit judge Friday set a trial date of July 28 for Zakieya Avery, the mother who allegedly killed her two children.

Police called to her Germantown home in late January found a bloody crime scene. According to investigators, Avery stabbed and killed her 18-month-old son and 2-year-old daughter, claiming they were possessed by evil spirits.

Avery also allegedly stabbed and injured her other two children.

She is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder.

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said Avery will likely enter a plea of insanity in the near future.

In a separate court appearance Friday, Monifa Sanford, a second woman charged with same offenses, entered a plea.

“Ms. Sanford, through her attorney, filed a plea that we anticipated, which is a plea of not criminally responsible, which is tantamount to basically pleading insanity at the time of the crime,” said McCarthy.

Sanford will undergo a mental evaluation. Her trial is scheduled for Aug. 25.

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