Demonology has no place in the educational process, or so learned a literacy specialist working at the Lealman and Asian Neighborhood Family Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. Danielle Harkins was arrested for child-abuse after allegedly attempting to conduct an exorcism on seven of her former students. The horrific stunt not only landed Harkins in jail, but it also led to burns and injuries among those teenagers who participated.
Harkins apparently waited until evening on Saturday to commence the bizarre festivities. Then, she reportedly built a fire near the St. Petersburg Pier and encouraged the teens to stand around it, while they attempted to self-expel the purported demons from their bodies. First, she allegedly told the kids to cut themselves to let the demons escape. Then, police claim she urged them to cauterize their wounds so that the spirits wouldn't be able to re-enter their bodies.
Below, see Harkins' appearance in court, during which she seems visibly annoyed:
The Miami Herald has a detailed recap of some of the troubling activities that unfolded on Saturday evening:
When Harkins held a lighter to one teen's hand, wind blew the flame out, police said. That prompted her to douse his hand in perfume before setting it on fire. The boy suffered second-degree burns, police said.
Another teen was cut on the neck with a broken bottle, police said. Harkins used a flame to heat a small key, which she then used to cauterize the wound.
Steven Chanthalima, 17, one of the teens who attended the gathering, declined Tuesday evening to discuss what happened.
"I'm okay," he said. "I'm fine. All I know is she's in custody."
All of the teenagers involved were of Asian ethnic background and all attended the school that Harkins has worked at for the past 4 1/2 years. The former students attended the school a few years ago, as police confirm that they are not currently involved with the institution. None of the young people notified their parents about the incident, but one of the boys did send a text message to a friend -- a trigger that led to an investigation.
"Obviously, it's very strange," St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz told the Herald. "The motivations for the ritual are very unknown to us."
Harkins has been suspended without pay as a result of the incident and the Lealman and Asian Neighborhood Family Center is assuring the public that nothing related to the occult is going on at the school. The literary specialist taught reading and writing there.
Neighbors told the Herald that Harkins has recently divorced and that, accompanying the end of her marriage, she purportedly began delving into extreme religious ideologies. So far, the police have had a difficult time getting the teens to discuss exactly what happened over the weekend.