WASHINGTON (AP) – A mother found in her home with the decomposing bodies of four girls was charged yesterday with murder after reportedly telling investigators that the children were possessed by demons and died in their sleep.

Banita Jacks, 33, was charged with felony murder and appeared in District of Columbia Superior Court. She told police that the deaths occurred before a utility turned off her electricity, which prosecutors said was in September 2007, according to charging documents.

The bodies of the girls – ages 5 to 17 and believed to all be Jacks’ daughters – were found Wednesday when deputy U.S. marshals served an eviction notice at the apartment in southeast Washington.

“I don’t think anyone in the city can remember a case involving this many young people who have died in such a tragic way,” Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said.

Jacks told investigators that the children were possessed by demons and began dying in their sleep, one by one, within a seven-day period, documents say.

She could receive a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Jacks appeared in court in a white jump suit, and court was recessed briefly before a judge could rule on her detention.

Her attorney argued that she should be released to the custody of an adult relative pending trial. Prosecutors argued that she should be held without bond.

The charging documents identify the children as Brittany Jacks, 17; Tatiana Jacks, 11; N’kia Fogle, 6; and Aja Fogle, 5.

Although autopsies are incomplete, the medical examiner’s office reported that there was evidence that Brittany had been stabbed, the charging documents state.

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