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Maryland women accused of killing children say they saw demons: authorities

By Alice Popovici

ROCKVILLE, Md (Reuters) - Two Maryland women accused of murdering two children they believed were possessed told investigators they saw the children's eyes turn black as evidence that they were being controlled by demons, authorities said on Tuesday.

The women are being held without bond and will undergo psychiatric evaluations to determine their competency to stand trial, Montgomery County State Attorney John McCarthy said at a news briefing.

A 1-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl were discovered dead on Friday in Germantown, Maryland, after a neighbor called police. Two other children, an 8-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl, were being treated for stab wounds and were expected to recover.

The mother of all four children, Zakieya Avery, 28, and Monifa Sanford, 21, who lived in the same house, each were charged with two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder.

According to reports presented in court, the women said they saw "the eyes of each of the children blackening" as "demons entered the bodies of each of the children" and jumped from one child to the other, McCarthy said.

The women recounted that they tried to break each child's neck, then strangled and stabbed them, he said.

At one point, Avery attacked Sanford because she believed a demon had jumped into Sanford from one of the children, he said.

"The actions that they took were intended to drive the demons out of the body of each of these children," he said.

The orders for psychiatric evaluations are based on the women's accounts of what took place as well as their previous mental health issues, McCarthy said.

"The issue of sanity has not been raised yet in this case," he said. "This is merely an issue of competency."

Avery has reportedly been hospitalized for mental health issues, and Sanford told police about suicide attempts.

Police said the women are part of a four-person group calling itself the "Demon Assassins." The other members, two men, are being sought but not believed to be dangerous, police said.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Chris Reese)

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