Florida Men Vandalize Graves, Steal Skulls Jan 8, 2021 17:01:26 GMT -5
Post by Graveyardbride on Jan 8, 2021 17:01:26 GMT -5
Florida Practitioners of Palo Mayombe Vandalize Graves, Steal Skulls
On Sunday, December 6, Tanya and Emma Boothe were driving along Britt Road in Mount Dora, Florida, when they spotted what appeared to be an open grave in Edgewood Cemetery. The two proceeded into the graveyard and discovered vaults had been broken open and parts of corpses removed from their graves.
“The bodies were exposed and dismembered,” Tanya said, and one of the male corpses she saw had been decapitated. “There was a pillow with nothing on it. I mean the head was gone. His body was just laying there. No vault, no top of the coffin, not anything.”
The mother and daughter notified the authorities and deputies noted at least four graves had been pillaged and someone had attempted to open a fifth. The skulls of the remains in the four open graves were missing. A spokesperson for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said the vandalism was “very likely tied to some form of ritualistic activity.”
Palo Mayombe, an Afro-Cuban practice sometimes called the “dark side of Santería,” incorporates human skulls and bones in certain diabolical rituals. Human bones also are used by practitioners of voodoo and some Satanic cults and an intact skull can fetch up to $1,000.
During the investigation, cigar butts were collected at the scene and submitted for DNA testing, which led to the arrests of Brian Montalvo Tolentino (left), 43, of Davenport, and Juan Burgos Lopez, 39, of Lake Wales.
Tolentino told officers he and Lopez used a crowbar to open the vaults and removed heads of the deceased, explaining he held a plastic bag while Lopez grabbed the heads and put them inside.
A search of Lopez’s home at 5170 Timberlane Road in Lake Wales turned up six skulls, a hand, part of an arm and other large human bones utilized in what deputies believed was some sort of shrine in an outbuilding behind the house. One of the skulls was identified as that of an army veteran buried at Edgewood Cemetery. According to Lopez, four of the skulls were taken from graves and two others were purchased from other practitioners of Palo Mayombe.
Both men were charged with four counts each of disturbing a grave and abuse of a human corpse. They are being held at the Polk County Jail on bonds of $40,000 each.
“Being a veteran myself, it makes me angry.” Emma Boothe remarked. “They gave the ultimate sacrifice and you gave them the ultimate disrespect.”
“It’s sickening ... we were both just devastated and flabbergasted,” Tanya Boothe added. “No family should have to go through this. Once you put your family to rest, that should be the end of it.”
This isn’t the first time human bones have been removed from a Florida cemetery. Two years ago in Bartow, the grave of a long-dead World War II veteran was vandalized by grave robbers who disinterred his body and removed his clothing. Another bizarre case occurred in 1990 when five men participating in a Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game stole a body from a Lake City cemetery.
Sources: Audrey Huff, WTSP, January 8, 2021; WKMG, January 7, 2021; Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Tavares, Florida; WESH, December 8, 2020; and The Orlando Sentinel, December 7, 2020.