A teacher who police said tried to rid two former students of evil spirits was arrested Tuesday morning on felony child abuse charges.
St. Petersburg Police said 35-year-old Danielle Harkins had been mentoring a group of Asian teens. On Saturday, seven on those teens were hanging out with Harkins at the St. Petersburg Pier. Officers said she convinced a couple of those teens that they had demons inside their bodies.
Police said the teacher told a 17-year-old that he needed to get rid of an evil tick. Officers said Harkins instructed another teen to cut into the back of that victim with a broken piece of glass to release the demon and then burned the wound shut with a heated up house key to stop the demon from getting back into his body.
Police say Harkins also poured perfume on a 16-year-old's right hand and lit it on fire in a ritualistic burning to expel evil spirits.
Police said the two victims are former students of Harkins, who's been a literacy teacher at the Lealman Asian Neighborhood Center for about five years.
The executive director of the center says Harkins recently got into a religion but she's not sure what it's about.
"I know that she was interested in some religious ideas,” said Carolyn Chance. “They were never discussed here because we don't do those types of discussions here at the center. So, I really don't have any knowledge."
Chance said Harkins was suspended without pay when the allegations first came to light.
Bay News 9 went to Harkins' St. Petersburg home but nobody came to the door. Police say this is still an active investigation and they need to interview more teens from that group.