Police release 911 calls from Maryland child slaying case

January 20

A caller to Montgomery County’s 911 center on Friday morning painfully described a bloody knife and a little jacket as she summoned police to a home where two toddlers were slain and two other children injured in what officials say was an attempted exorcism.

The woman’s call came about 11 hours after another neighbor had called 911 to the same house, reporting that a baby had been left alone in a car and two women who lived in the home were acting aggressively and following him down the street. One of the women, he said, the child’s mother, “reported that she had something going on and she didn’t want her baby to be in danger in the house.”

Inside that home, county police said, the children’s mother, Zakieya Avery, 28, and another woman, Monifa Sanford, 21, attacked the children. Police said the women thought the children were possessed by evil spirits.

The slain toddlers — a boy, Norell Harris, 1, and a girl, Zyana Harris, 2 — were found stabbed to death on their mother’s bed. A sister, Taniya Harris, 5, and a brother, Martello Harris, 8, were seriously injured but are expected to survive.

The first 911 call came at 10:14 p.m. Thursday when a neighbor of Avery’s reported that a baby had been left alone in a car outside Avery’s townhouse. The caller said that Avery had earlier tried to explain why the child was in the car.

911 calls

Hear 911 calls made in the case involving the deaths of two toddlers.

Note: Please upgrade your Flash plug-in to view our enhanced content.

First 911 call

Note: Please upgrade your Flash plug-in to view our enhanced content.

Second 911 call

SOURCE: Montgomery County Police

“The mother came out, she reported that she had something going on and she didn’t want her baby to be in danger in the house,” the caller said.

As the caller was speaking to the 911 operator, two women came out of the townhouse. The caller, who sounded increasingly upset, said he was being followed.

“Back off me, please,” the man can be heard saying. “You need to back off me, ma’am.”

Then the man speaks to the 911 operator. “I’m being attacked by two females.”

“Why are they attacking you?” the operator asks.

“Because, uh, they came to check on the baby out here.”

The man said the women kept walking after him, telling him to stay out of their business. “That is my business,” the man said. “A kid in the car for an hour is my business. . . . A baby in the car for an hour is my business.”

The man said the women did not have any weapons. He said one woman in particular was acting odd and talking to herself. “She seems to be responding to internal stimuli,” the caller said.

The man eventually told the operator that one of the women had gone back into the townhouse with the baby.

Montgomery police have said that by the time officers arrived, both women had reentered the townhouse. Police knocked on the door but didn’t get a response. They didn’t hear or see anything suspicious, referred the matter to social workers and eventually left. Police officials said the officers didn’t have enough probable cause to force their way inside.

The next morning, 911 operators received a call at 9:23 from a woman who saw a car outside the townhouse with its door open, a knife and blood near the car. She said she had heard noises from the home around midnight.

“I heard loud noises in the night. I just wake up and I heard like jumping and, I didn’t know, they have four children, so I don’t know if the kids just doing that every day, so I didn’t think anything,” she said. “But this morning when I just take my kids to school, I see the knife with blood outside and I see the car with the door open.”

Officers who responded grabbed the keys from the car and entered the townhouse. Avery bolted out the back door, according to police, but was quickly captured. Sanford was injured and taken to a hospital before being jailed.

Get updates on your area delivered via e-mail

Post staff writer Dan Morse covers courts and crime in Montgomery County, Md.
Most Read Local