Mother Will Go to Psychiatric Hospital After Killing Her Children in an Exorcism

According to the New York Daily News, Zakieya Avery stabbed four children in what she thought was an exorcism in 2014, fatally injuring her two youngest children and wounding their two older siblings.  She pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. 

At her sentencing, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Terrence McGann ruled that she was not criminally responsible for the children’s deaths and instead will go to a psychiatric hospital, the Associated Press reports. Avery and her housemate believed the children to be possessed by demons and themselves to be "demon warriors." The two had even lived in a car for nine days in order to avoid demons in the house.

“The only way to understand her actions in this case is to factor in her mental illness, her delusional belief that her children were being possessed by demons,” Neil Blumberg, a psychiatrist retained by an attorney for the mother, Avery, testified. The Washington Post reports that though McGann usually gives extremely strict punishments for violent crimes, he also has displayed his understanding of mental health. Given the testimonies during the trial and that Avery had been hospitalized before, McGann chose to sentence her to psychiatric care as opposed to jail.