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A Florida literacy teacher is behind bars for a bizarre exorcism ritual in which she allegedly cut and burned teenagers to rid them of demons.
Danielle Harkins, 35, taught reading and writing skills at the Lealman and Asian Neighborhood Family Center in St. Petersburg, Fla. But an off-campus extra-curricular activity last Saturday got her arrested, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Harkins allegedly met with seven former students, all of Asian heritage, around a small bonfire near the St. Petersburg Pier. She told the teens to cut their skin to let evil spirits out, police told the Times.
After their skin was cut in the exorcism ritual, the teens' wounds were set on fire to make sure evil spirits wouldn't return, Danielle Harkins allegedly told her ex-students.
One student's neck was sliced with a broken bottle, police told the Times. Harkins allegedly used a lighter to heat up a key, which she then used to seal the wound.
Harkins also allegedly doused another teen's hand in perfume and set it on fire, giving the boy second-degree burns.
The teens kept the exorcism a secret from their parents, but one boy told a friend via text message. That friend told the boy's parents, who called police, the Times reports.
Danielle Harkins was arrested on suspicion of child abuse, which in Florida includes any intentional or threatened act that results in mental or physical injury on a child.
Under Florida law, child abuse that involves torture or causes "great bodily harm" is a first-degree felony that can be punished by a lengthy prison sentence.
It's not clear what Danielle Harkins' motive was for the bizarre exorcism ritual, but neighbors told the Tampa Bay Times she'd been acting strangely since her divorce earlier this spring. Harkins' bail has been set at $55,000.
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