Church of Wells/YMBBA Ministries

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12/13/2014 12:44 am  #1



Child neglect charges filed against a woman whose son died of untreated diabetes has put the spotlight on a church with a long history of court cases over its rejection of medical aid. 
Susan M. Grady, formerly of Broken Arrow, was charged in Tulsa County District Court on Tuesday, 18 months after her 9-year-old son, Aaron, died of complications from diabetes mellitus. 

Investigators say three days before he died, Aaron got very sick. Witnesses told police he was lethargic, urinating on himself, and breathing hard, but they also say he was still eating. Investigators talked to five people who said they'd visited the boy to pray for him. 

The police affidavit says Susan Grady's brother was there when his father tried to get Susan to take her son to the doctor. According to police records Grady says she knew the boy was very sick, but she didn't consider taking him to the doctor, because she was "trying to live by faith" and she "felt like God would heal him." 

She told detectives she was a member of the Church of the First Born and "believes in faith-based healing through prayer."  The Church of the First Born is one of the most frequent offenders in religion-based child medical neglect, said Dr. Seth Asser, a Rhode Island pediatrician who has published a study about children who died after their parents offered them prayer without medical help. 

Asser said the Church of the First Born, well-known in Oklahoma, and Followers of Christ, an offshoot of the church that is located in the Pacific Northwest, together are responsible for more child deaths than any other group. 

He estimated that one to two dozen American children die each year because their parents neglect to get them medical help, choosing instead to pray for their healing. That is about 1 percent of all child-abuse deaths. 

"It's not a big number, but unlike a lot of the others, these are entirely preventable," he said. 

Asser and child advocate Rita Swan worked together on a study of 172 child deaths due to what they called religion-based medical neglect and found that 140 of them would have had a 90 percent chance of survival and 18 others a 50 percent chance of survival with proper medical care. 


1/18/2015 2:11 pm  #2

Re: Oklahoma
Zakieya Latrice Avery and Monifa Denise Sanford denied bond
 January 21, 2014 

(WJLA) - Silence blanketed a Montgomery County District courtroom Tuesday as prosecutors vividly described an attempted exorcism that left two toddlers dead and their two older siblings critically injured. 

The children's mother, Zakieya Avery, 28, and Avery's close friend Monifa Sanford, 21, are facing two counts of first degree murder, and two counts of first degree attempted murder.

Around 9:30 a.m. Friday, police arrived at the horrifyingly bizarre and heartbreaking crime scene in the 19000 block of Cherry Bend Drive in Germantown. Inside the modest two-story townhome, officers located the lifeless bodies of one-year-old Norell Harris and his two-year-old sister Zyana Harris. Both were lying in their mother's bed. Five-year-old Taniya Harris was barely clinging to life in an adjacent bedroom, curled in the fetal position with multiple stab wounds.

"As police entered the house, Zakieya Avery was coming down the stairs with her oldest son [Martello Harris, eight] when Avery fled out the back door, " Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said while addressing the court.

Members of ExouSia Ministries, a small Christian congregation which worships at a Germantown elementary school, Avery and Sanford told investigators they'd recently created a side-car clan they called the Demon Assassins. The four-member group maintained a rank and order, with Avery positioned as "commander" and Sanford, "sergeant."

According to comments made in court, Avery and Sanford had scheduled an in-home exorcism Thursday evening for a group member named Troy. Only problem, Troy never arrived for his appointment. Then around 5 a.m. Friday, both women reportedly became convinced a demonic spirit had invaded the soul's of all four children, turning their young eyes dark black. "It began with an attempt to break the neck of the youngest child, it proceeded into strangulation and ultimately graduated into stabbing ," McCarthy said.

Despite deeply penetrating stab wounds, three of the four children weren't covered in blood when officers arrived, but instead wrapped in wet blankets. "The women, after the attack, showered together to wash the blood off themselves, cleaned-up the crime scene and then prepared the children to see God," McCarthy added. "It was to be an everlasting life in heaven." n court, the prosecution disclosed Avery's record of involuntary commitments for psychiatric delusions, and Sanford's history of suicide attempts. Consequently, Judge Gary Everngam ordered jailers will transfer both women to the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center, a maximum security psychiatric facility located in Jessup. There the church friends turned accused criminals will undergo extensive mental health testing to see if either is equipped to stand trial.

"We believe that she knew she did something wrong. However, neither woman appears outwardly remorseful for what they did," Montgomery County Police Department Capt. Marcus Jones remarked. Capt. Jones, who spent hours combing through the unparalleled crime scene, says despite Hollywood's portrayal of exorcisms and witchcraft, Avery's townhome was remarkably normal. "There were no candles, documents, or literature, nothing indicating a ritual had been held," Capt. Jones added. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, Avery had enlisted district public defender Brian Shefferman, while Sanford's family had hired private defense attorneys Edward Leyden and Dana Jones-Oliver. "She's always been known as a very nurturing, affectionate caregiver, so this is shocking," Jones-Oliver remarked. "It shocks the conscious of not only people watching television or reading the newspaper, but also her [Sanford's] family as well." 

Police say Sanford, who was enrolled at Montgomery College, met Avery about eight months ago. Despite the brutal nature of their alleged crimes, both women spoke quietly and maintained meek outer appearances during their bond hearings Tuesday. The close friends will remain behind bars without bond, pending their psychiatric evaluations. 

Martello Harris, 8, and Taniya Harris, 5, continue to recover from their critical stab wounds. Martello, police say, could be released from an area hospital later this week. It's just an unbelievable story that I hope I never have to witness again in my career, or anybody else for that matter," Capt. Jones concluded.

     Thread Starter

1/18/2015 2:22 pm  #3

Re: Oklahoma

In Md. ‘demon assassin’ case, 1st defendant is committed to maximum security hospital

By Dan Morse January 16, 2015

Monifa Sanford, one of two Montgomery County women accused of killing two young children during what they believed was an exorcism, was ruled criminally insane on Friday and was committed to a maximum-security psychiatric hospital.

Sanford, 22, who had called herself a “demon assassin,” pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. Sanford will stay at Maryland’s Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center at least until it is determined that she no longer poses a danger to the public. She could very well be at Perkins for the rest of her life.

“This case represents a horrible descent into the depths of mental illness,” said Sanford’s attorney, David Felsen. “Monifa believed Satan was going to kill the children and she needed to kill the children to save their souls.”

Friday’s hearing revealed the most detailed account so far of the horrifying violence that erupted inside a townhouse in Germantown, about 20 miles north of the District. At the time, Sanford was living with Zakieya Avery, then 28, and Avery’s four young children.

In the early morning hours of Jan. 17, 2014, the women became convinced that demons had invaded the children’s bodies, prosecutor Peter Feeney said in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

First, they attacked Norell, 18 months old, Feeney said. Avery held him down and stabbed him repeatedly with a serrated paring knife, he said, while Sanford stroked the boy’s face to try to calm him. The two women then attacked Zyana, 2½ years old, who was stabbed at least 13 times.

At some point, Feeney said, 8-year-old Martello walked into the younger children’s room, began to cry and yelled for his mother to stop. He, too, was attacked — stabbed by his mother and then stomped. The two women also went after Taniya, 5, Feeney said, stabbing her and telling her to “confess.” Taniya managed to crawl into another room and curl up in a bed, moaning in pain and suffering from a punctured lung. 

Norell and Zyana died.

Martin Harris, the children’s father, was among those in court. In an interview, he said that Taniya and Martello have scars on their chests but have recovered physically. In the months after the attacks, Taniya would still try to spot Norell and Zyana. “I know she was looking around for her playmates,” Harris said. Taniya and Martello are working hard in school, Harris said, and aren’t as withdrawn as he feared they would be: “My kids are really, really resilient.” 

During the hearing, Feeney spoke about Sanford’s motives. “Detectives asked Sanford how she felt about what she did to the children,” Feeney said. “Sanford said she was ‘happy the children are in heaven, but I miss them.’ ” Sanford also told detectives that she had kept Satan from overtaking Norell and Zyana. “Now God has them,” she said, according to Feeney. 

In Maryland, people can be found criminally insane if mental illness keeps them from understanding that they are committing a crime. In that context, the developments in Sanford’s case on Friday stand in contrast to the legal route underway in the case against Avery, the children’s mother. That is because last year, a state psychiatrist concluded that Sanford was legally insane at the time of the killings, but a different state psychiatrist concluded that Avery was legally sane. Avery’s attorney, Brian Shefferman, is questioning how this can be, given that the pair are alleged to have killed the children at the same time and for the same reasons. 

Shefferman has been given additional time to enlist another doctor to evaluate Avery, who has a history of mental illness and had been committed to a mental-health facility before her children’s deaths, according to court records. As of now, her trial date is set for June 24. 

Friday’s hearing offered insight into the state of mind of Avery and Sanford that morning a year ago.  Feeney told Circuit Judge Cheryl McCally that the prosecution’s account was based on detectives’ interviews with Sanford and Avery, medical reports and other evidence. 

Feeney’s account to the judge follows:

Sanford and Avery met in February 2013 at a small church in Montgomery. At the time, Sanford was living with her father and taking classes at a community college in the county. Avery began to tell Sanford about demons and showed her YouTube videos that purported to depict them. In time, Sanford told Avery that she thought there were demons at Sanford’s father’s house and at the Giant grocery store where she worked. Avery suggested that Sanford quit her job and stay in Avery’s townhouse, and her friend agreed.

The women called themselves “demon assassins.” They began to isolate themselves from other adults. They stopped attending their church, which they thought had also been invaded by demons. Neither had a job, believing that God didn’t want them to. Avery received financial assistance from the state; Sanford had help from a relative. 

In December 2013, the children’s paternal grandmother took them to Philadelphia to visit their father. When the children returned, the women went through toys the children had received as Christmas gifts and threw away those they believed were possessed. 

By this time, the women also imagined that they had boyfriends, named “Dawntea” and “Troy.” And on the night of Jan. 16, 2014, Avery and Sanford planned to perform an exorcism on the men in the home. The women were concerned that demons might jump into the children, so the women took all four children outside — placing them in Avery’s blue Toyota — and returned to the townhouse.

It was about 32 degrees outside, and the car wasn’t running. A neighbor walked by the car, saw the children crying and knocked on Avery’s front door. Avery said they were all getting ready to leave. About 40 minutes later, the children were still in the car, and another neighbor knocked on the door. Sanford brought the children inside. This neighbor spoke on the phone with police, who came out and knocked on Avery’s door for about five minutes. They got no answer, saw lights turn off and called their department’s child-abuse section. The officers tried knocking again, still got no answer, called the county’s Child Protective Services agency and left.

Police officials have previously said their officers didn’t have probable cause to force their way into the townhouse. Nothing revealed Friday suggested that wasn’t the case. 

Early in the morning of Jan. 17, 2014, Avery awakened Sanford, telling her that spirits had taken over the children. Avery told Sanford to get a Bible and put on the “armor of God.” They went to an upstairs bedroom where the two younger children were. Norell was crying. Avery told Sanford that demons were in him. Sanford thought she saw his eyes turn black.

“Avery picked up Norell, gripped her hands around her son’s neck and tried to choke him,” Feeney said. The prosecutor added that Sanford thought she could pray the demon out of Norell by speaking in tongues and that Avery then told Sanford to get a knife. Detectives believe that Avery cut and stabbed Norell at least eight times, injuring him as he held up his hands to try to defend himself.

Detectives think that Sanford choked the next oldest child, Zyana, unconscious. Detectives could never determine which woman stabbed Zyana but learned that some of her wounds were so deep that they passed though her chest and out her back.

After attacking the older children, the women tossed two bloody knives out an upstairs window onto the front yard, officials believe.

About 9:40 a.m., a neighbor called police, reporting a suspicious situation outside the townhouse — a Toyota with at least one door open and a knife that possibly had blood on it. She also said she’d heard noises from the townhouse the night before but thought it was just kids running and jumping around. 

Officers arrived at the house, saw a set of keys in the back of the Toyota and grabbed them. They knocked on the townhouse’s door, got no answer and used a key to go inside.  Avery ran out a back door, taking Martello with her. Police caught up to her after she had placed Martello in a back seat but before she could get behind the wheel. Inside the house, the officers found the other children and Sanford. 

     Thread Starter

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