The Massachusetts woman who allegedly fatally stabbed her 8-year-old son 50 times before turning the knife on her 5-year-old son told police she did it as part of a ‘ritual,’ PEOPLE confirms.
During her arraignment Tuesday in Brockton District Court, Latarsha Sanders pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder in the deaths of her sons, Edson “Marlon” Brito, 8, and Lason Brito, 5 , according to a release from the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office.
The 43-year-old mother of five allegedly told police she attacked the older son first with a kitchen knife as part of a “ritual,” Assistant Plymouth District Attorney Jessica Kenny told the judge during the arraignment, The Associated Press reports.
She allegedly said she then stabbed the younger son “because she had ‘failed’ in the ritual with Marlon,” Kenny said, according to The Boston Herald.
“She responded to police that she felt bad about what she had done,” Kenny said.
A preliminary autopsy found that Edson had been stabbed 50 times in the neck and torso, Kenny said, according to the Herald.
She allegedly told police that the stabbings had to do with “voodoo stuff,” according to a police report of her interview, the AP and local station WBUR report.
Sanders had called the alleged murders a “spiritual ritual,” a spokeswoman for the district attorney tells PEOPLE.
One officer described the alleged stabbings as “voodoo” in the police report, the spokeswoman said.
The family’s ordeal began on Monday, when police were called to the family’s apartment building at 12:07 p.m., the district attorney’s office says in the release.
Police found Sanders outside the apartment building, “distraught and combative,” the release states.
While she was taken to the hospital by ambulance to be evaluated, officers who entered the family’s third-floor apartment found the two boys in beds in two separate rooms.
The children had each been stabbed multiple times and were already deceased when the officers found them, the release says.
Sanders made statements to investigators “that could be construed as admissions to the crime,” the release states.
She allegedly told police the killings were part of a “ritualistic incident,” it says.
After allegedly stabbing the two boys, she cleaned up the children, placed them in beds, and mopped up the scene, the release continues.
She failed to seek medical attention for the boys, it alleges.
Police found a kitchen knife in the sink that is believed to be the murder weapon, the release states.
A statement from Brockton Public Schools was sent out on Tuesday, which stated, according to CBS Boston, “The Brockton Public Schools administration, faculty, and staff is shocked and saddened at the tragic and senseless loss on Monday of two innocent, young lives. We grieve with their surviving family members and friends and offer our deepest condolences and prayers.”
Crisis teams were available to students on Tuesday and will stay there as long as needed, according to the outlet.
Sanders is being held without bail. She is scheduled to appear in court on April 9.
PEOPLE’s calls to her attorney were not immediately returned.