Arkansas state legislator Rep. Justin Harris gave his adopted daughters away because he and his wife thought they were possessed by demons, according to a report in the Arkansas Times.
The revelation is particularly shocking because one of the girls was eventually raped by the new foster parent, who was one of Harris' former staffers, the New York Daily News reports.
The Harrises, who have three other children and run a pre-school in West Fork, Arkansas, told the Times that they couldn't handle the girls' behavior. They claimed that the girls, aged 3 and 6, were violent and that one of them crushed a family pet to death. So they gave the girls away to Eric Francis, who was arrested six months later and is now serving a 40-year sentence for sexually assaulting the 6-year-old child.
Eric Cameron Francis pleaded guilty in November to three counts of sexual assault.
Those close to the Harrises told the Times an even darker story. Harris (R-West Fork) and his wife Marsha were convinced that the girls were possessed and could communicate telepathically, according to more than a dozen sources, including other foster families, the girls' biological mother, a Department of Human Services employee and a former babysitter. They also reportedly had exorcisms performed on the sisters, and kept them separated under lock and key.
Chelsey Goldsborough, who regularly babysat for the Harrises, said Mary was kept isolated from Annie and from the rest of the family. She was often confined for hours to her room, where she was monitored by a video camera. The reason: The Harrises believed the girls were possessed by demons and could communicate telepathically, Goldsborough said. Harris and his wife once hired specialists to perform an "exorcism" on the two sisters while she waited outside the house with the boys, she said.
Another woman, an employee at Harris' pre-school, called Growing God's Kingdom, said the couple would also try to "rebuke demons" out of misbehaving students, according to KWNA.
"If they got in too much trouble they would pray on the kids, do a circle around them, put their hands on their heads, saying, trying to rebuke demons," said the former employee, who wished to be called only Amber.
The Harrises have denied these claims, saying they don't believe in exorcism. They told the Times that they gave away their daughters without the oversight of DHS because they were denied a "private adoption" and were misled about the girls' apparent behavioral issues.
The girls' biological mother, Sarah Young, facilitated the adoption with the Harrises after losing custody of three girls in 2011. Their biological father sexually assaulted one of the girls, while another man in Young's home was sentenced to 120 years in prison for assaulting the two older girls, according to the Daily News.
Eventually, all three were transferred to the Harris home in October 2012 -- against their foster parents' recommendations -- but the Harrises decided to only adopt the younger two girls. They were officially adopted in March 2013, while the older girl was reportedly hospitalized.
Young thought the Harris home would be a good fit because she wanted to "make sure my girls were safe and in a good home," and heard through a local church that they were looking to adopt, Justin Harris told KARK.
They gave the girls to Eric Francis, who was the head of the pre-school, in October 2013.
The girls have since been placed in new homes and are reportedly doing very well.