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Women accused of violent crime in 'exorcism' child deaths

Two Maryland women are in police custody after allegedly killing two very young children and injuring two others during a purported 'exorcism.' The women, ages 21 and 28, are each being held on counts of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in connection with the case. Authorities say that the violent crime involved the women stabbing a 1-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl to death. Further, a 5-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy were injured, though they are expected to recover from their wounds.

Authorities say that they may have recovered the knives that were used in the attacks. One is the size of a paring knife, and the other is only slightly larger. Investigators allege that the two women genuinely thought the children were possessed by demonic spirits, and they were attempting to release evil beings from the youngsters.

The older woman is the mother of the children. Relatives of that woman say that she was a doting mother who seemed to love her children and cared for them appropriately. Family members speculate that the woman "wasn't herself" at the time of the incident. Such sentiments raised concerns about the women's mental health, as the mother has received mental health counseling in the past. She was also separated from her husband.

Investigators say they first learned of trouble at the women's residence when a neighbor called about a child sitting alone in a parked car the night before the deaths. A request for follow-up was submitted to the county's child welfare agency, who was slated to arrive the next day. The next morning - Jan. 17 - a neighbor noticed a knife on the ground near the home that had been covered with blood. That neighbor has been credited with saving the lives of the two older children.

These two women may have suffered from a severe mental illness that drove them to perform the "exorcism." Their criminal defense attorneys may be able to obtain psychiatric evaluations for the women to determine whether they are capable of standing trial for the accusations of violent crime. Defendants with mental illnesses deserve special consideration and should receive the full legal protections to which they are entitled.

Source: The Washington Post, "Police: Mother charged in deaths of 2 toddlers thought she was performing exorcism" Dan Morse and DeNeen L. Brown,, Jan. 18, 2014

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