Pastor: Exorcism never brought up by mom

7:38 AM, Jan 20, 2014   |    comments
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HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WUSA9) - A former family pastor says exorcism was never brought up.

The Germantown woman accused of killing her two children and trying to kill her other two children sought help from a Hagerstown church a few years ago because the family had no money.

Zakieya Avery, 28, and Monifa Sanford, 21, are charged with two counts of first degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

Pastor Dan Thornton of Maranatha Brethren Church says the Harris family moved to Hagerstown with the prospect of a new job .

But when that job fell through, the family had no income and no car in September of 2011.

"We met them at a time of need. What makes this shocking is Kiya loved these kids," Thornton said. "They were confident and happy kids. You get a feel if kids are abused that did not fit these children."

The church knew her by Kiya Harris and her husband Martin. They were together at the time with three children and pregnant with the fourth.

The mother, Kiya Harris, the same woman we know as Zakieya Avery, is charged with murdering her two youngest children, and tried killing her two oldest children.

Sanford has no connection to the church and Thornton doesn't know how the two met.

The pastor and his congregation wrapped their arms around this family, investing 7 months of their time while they lived in Hagerstown, Thornton said. Members drove them to Sunday Service, doctor's offices, bought them groceries, clothes and even furniture.

"We got them beds because they were sleeping on the floor," he said.

Members took the mother to counseling but they don't know for what type of mental health issues, Thornton said.

Investigators say the two Germantown women believed that they were performing an exorcism.

"There was never any conversation that I know of related to anything spiritual like that, " said Thornton.

The two injured children are in stable condition and are expected to survive.

(Copyright Gannett 2014)

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