The 43-year-old allegedly showed up ranting at her mother’s home on Saturday afternoon with two of her sons, 8-year-old Edson “Marlon” Brito and 5-year-old Lason Brito, in tow. She was rambling about human sacrifice, her mother later told police. Sanders said her boys were sick, and she was taking them to the hospital. She left, and she stopped answering her mother’s phone calls.
Two days later, Sanders collapsed, hysterical, into the arms of a neighbor, and police who were summoned to her Prospect Street apartment made a horrifying discovery: the bodies of her boys, splayed out beneath blankets, slashed with a kitchen knife.
On Tuesday, Sanders pleaded not guilty in Brockton District Court to charges that she murdered her sons. Prosecutors said she stabbed Marlon some 50 times and then turned on Lason, after concluding the first child’s death had failed to complete the supposed ritual.
She was held without bail.
Sanders’s mother, Earline Sanders, told police that her daughter was “mentally unstable and crazy” and had become obsessed in the past two years with the Illuminati, a secret society, according to a police report. Latarsha Sanders had tumbled into a strange world of rituals, numerology, and sacrifices, her mother said, and had refused mental health treatment. She was spying on her neighbors by using a baby monitor, Earline Sanders said.
During a series of interviews with police following the discovery of the bodies Monday, Latarsha Sanders offered a strange and conflicting set of explanations that ranged from a claim she was motivated by “voodoo stuff” to one that her daughter “wanted a little blood.”
The killings came one week after two women in East Bridgewater were arraigned on charges of torturing a 5-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy in what their mother described as voodoo cleansing rituals meant to ward off evil spirits. Voodoo practitioners and academics told the Globe the religion does not condone violence.
Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz told reporters Tuesday that investigators are not certain what prompted Sanders to attack her children and said there was no clear evidence her actions were motivated by religious beliefs.
“We believe, based upon her comments, that she was involved in some sort of rituals that she believed in,” Cruz told reporters. “Suffice it to say it’s something she referred to throughout her life to other people in her family, or at least for the last couple of years. . . . We don’t have a lot of clarity to a lot of the things she was saying at this point.”
Court documents show that the family’s home life was marked by violence and financial instability.
In 2014, Latarsha Sanders sought two restraining orders against the father of the two boys, Edson Brito, saying he was an abusive alcoholic. Brito was repeatedly arrested for allegedly assaulting Sanders or her older son, according to court documents.
In one 2014 incident in which he allegedly pushed and threatened her, police responded to the couple’s apartment to find Sanders holding a crying Lason on her lap. Marlon, then 5 years old, pointed to Brito and exclaimed, “That’s him!” according to a police report.
The case was dismissed, but Brito was arrested again in July 2014, after allegedly shoving Sanders’s older son, a teenager. That case was also dismissed.
Brito had a three-page criminal history at Brockton District Court. Clerks at the court said they were unable to provide most of those records Tuesday.
Other records show that Sanders was the subject of eviction proceedings at her three-decker on Prospect Street but had reached an agreement to pay what she owed.
Sanders’s erratic behavior extended back more than two decades, according to the father of her teenage son. Ixer Alfred said he was romantically involved with Sanders for two years in the late 1990s, and that Sanders had “anger problems” then. One day, he said, she slapped him and then broke every window in his car.
“I was scared,” Alfred said. “I didn’t know what else she would do. So I drove my car, with no windows in it, and went home.”
Alfred said that in recent years he has tried to avoid Sanders because she often demanded money in addition to the child support he already paid. He had no idea that she had allegedly grown so paranoid, or that she was capable of violence toward her children, he said.
“Shock is not the word for this thing,” he said.
The state’s Department of Children and Families has had some involvement with the family, according to police reports from 2014, one of which noted that a police officer had filed a report with the agency on behalf of the teenaged son.
“The Department of Children and Families has received a report on this tragic situation, and we are coordinating our investigation with law enforcement,” said a spokeswoman, Andrea Grossman.
Sanders herself had no record of violence toward her children in Brockton District Court, according to court documents, until sometime between Saturday afternoon, when she left her mother’s, and Monday, when police found her apartment door ajar and her boys’ bodies in separate bedrooms.
Since Friday night, Sanders had been raving about the Illuminati, her mother told police, according to a police report. Late on Friday, she went to her mother’s house and accused her of killing her father, saying that “the devil has you.” She said she could not stand her teenage son, according to the report, and threatened to kill him and put his body in the freezer.
When Sanders returned Saturday, she again threatened to kill her teenage son.
She left another child, her teenage daughter, with her mother when she departed, saying she was going to the hospital with her boys.
She did not return on Sunday to pick the girl up, according to the report, and ignored her mother’s phone calls and text messages.
On Monday morning, according to the report, about an hour and a half before police found her children’s bodies, Sanders returned to her mother’s home, again accusing her of killing her father and hitting her. Sanders’ eyes were “black” and “glassy,” her mother told police, and when her mother asked where the boys were, Sanders allegedly shouted back: “None of your [expletive] business!”
Just after noon, Sanders was at home again and collapsed on her neighbor, according to the police report. Police and EMTs were called to the scene. Sanders screamed and flailed and would not cooperate, according to the police.
The neighbor took police upstairs, where they found the bodies.
When investigators interviewed Sanders, she blamed several other people for the killings, offering looping and shifting stories about her adult son and his father having stabbed the boys, according to the report. She kept dozing off during her interview.
Eventually, Sanders admitted that she killed the boys, according to the police report. She allegedly said that she took the kitchen knife she uses for pot roast and stabbed Marlon in the legs and chest.
But the ritual she was trying to perform had failed, she said, so she turned on her 5-year-old child.
Then, she said, she put the knife in the sink and mopped up her sons’ blood.
Travis Andersen and Nestor Ramos of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.