A Montgomery County district court judge on Friday ordered a Germantown woman accused of murdering her two toddlers in an attempted exorcism to be transferred to a psychiatric hospital.
Zakieya Avery, 28, will be transferred to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center, a maximum security psychiatric hospital in Jessup. Her codefendant, Monifa Sanford, 21, could end up there, too.
“They have a bed waiting for her,” Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said at the hearing for Sanford, also on Friday.
Both women, of Cherry Bend Drive in Germantown, have been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder in the deaths of Avery’s 1-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter on Jan. 17. The women told police they were trying to cast out demons they believed had possessed the children.
In a separate hearing, in District Court in Rockville, Judge Eugene Wolfe ordered Sanford to receive a mental health evaluation by local health officials to determine competency before being potentially transferred to the secure psychiatric facility.
Police also have charged the two women with attempting to kill Avery’s two other children, ages 5 and 8. Police say they found two knives they believed were used in the assaults — one the size of a paring knife, the other a butcher’s knife.
The women told investigators that they saw the children’s eyes turn black, and observed demons possessing them, skipping from child to child, McCarthy said at Avery’s bail review on Tuesday.
Sanford also was harmed in the attempted exorcisms. According to McCarthy, Sanford and Avery told investigators that at one point, the demon they were trying to exorcise inhabited Avery’s body, and she attacked Sanford, who had to be hospitalized with stab wounds and a slicing wound to her neck.
Police found the two toddlers washed and wrapped in blankets on Avery’s bed.
Sanford, a diminutive woman with a soft child-like voice, told police she has tried to kill herself twice previously. Avery, meanwhile, told police she had been involuntarily committed for mental health issues in the past, as well.
They were arrested Jan. 17, and have been held without bail since.
At Sanford’s bail review Friday, Wolfe ordered her to remain held in custody without bail.
Wolfe ordered Sanford to undergo a medical evaluation performed by a local doctor, as requested by prosecutors.
The evaluation would be to determine if Sanford is competent, or able to understand the charges against her and to help her lawyer in the case against her.
Originally scheduled for Tuesday, the review was postponed because Sanford’s family initially hired private attorneys to represent her instead of an attorney assigned by the public defender’s office.
On Friday, David Felsen, the attorney assigned by the public defender’s office, said in court he would be the only lawyer representing Sanford.
If deemed to be not competent, Sanford would receive treatment to restore her to competency, McCarthy said. At that point, she could still seek a defense of “not criminally responsible” in trial.
Sanford’s evaluation should be completed in the next few days, officials said in court. Her next court date is Friday, Jan. 31, but if the evaluation comes before then and recommends she go to the Perkins center, she could be transferred early.