ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CBS Tampa) – A woman is in jail after burning and cutting multiple children in a ritual intended to rid them of demons.

Danielle Harkins, 35, was arrested and put in jail yesterday after involving seven Asian teens in a ceremony during which she cut their skin, to let out evil spirits, then burned them to keep the spirits out, the Miami Herald reported.

Harkins worked as a literacy teacher at the Asian Neighborhood Family Center and Lealman, where she met the students.

“Obviously, it’s very strange,” said St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz to the paper. “The motivations for the ritual are very unknown to us.”

At least two children were injured during the ritual, which took place Saturday.

One teen sustained second-degree burns after Harkins covered his hand in perfume – which served as an accelerant – and another received a cut to the neck with a broken bottle. She reportedly cauterized the wound with a heated key.

The Herald is reporting that Harkins’ behavior became increasingly odd after her divorce was finalized on June 1.

Her neighbor, Lisa Cope, told the paper that Harkins had become very interested in her newfound religious convictions.

“She told me I was okay,” Cope was quoted as saying. “She said I didn’t have any demons.”

She was held last night on $55,000 bail.


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