Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Santeria priest charged in Connecticut with snatching bodies from Massachusetts mausoleum

Lets hear it, let's really hear it, for diversity! As reported by Jesse Leavenworth and Kristin Stoller in the Hartford Courant, December 5, 2015:

HARTFORD — A man who was arrested after skeletal remains of five bodies were found in his apartment said he was using the bones in his religion, police said Saturday.

The tenant of the apartment where the remains were seized, Amador Medina, 32, told investigators that he had the bones for use in Santeria, an Afro-Cuban religion that originated in West Africa, Deputy Chief Brian Foley said. At least one of the skeletons was clothed, apparently in the garments the body was buried in, Foley said.

Taken from Hope Cemetery in Worcester, Mass., the remains were recovered in Medina's Preston Street apartment on Friday afternoon. Medina was arrested in Hartford and charged as a fugitive from justice in Massachusetts, police said. He was cooperative and showed officers where the skeletal remains were located, police said. He said he used the bones in ceremonies and for healing, Foley said.

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported late Saturday that a Massachusetts arrest warrant for Medina includes five counts of disinterment of bodies. Police said the bodies of three adults and two young children were taken from caskets in a mausoleum at Hope Cemetery. and the theft was discovered about two months ago, the newspaper reported.

Inscribed with the name, "Houghton," the mausoleum was secured by two wooden doors and a wrought iron gate with a heavy gauge chain and lock, the paper reported. The chain had been cut, police said. The last time a person was interred in the mausoleum was about 70 years ago, according to the Telegram.

Santeria ("The Way of the Saints") developed in Cuba among slaves and spread throughout Latin America and the United States. The religion combines aspects of Catholicism and deities worshiped in West Africa.

Some believers practice animal sacrifice. News reports from around the country about decapitated goats, chickens and other animals have been linked to rituals of Santeria.
As reported by Nick Kotsopoulos of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, December 6, 2015:

WORCESTER - A Hartford man has been arrested in connection with the theft of five sets of skeletal remains from a mausoleum in Hope Cemetery that were found in his home Friday afternoon.

Amador Medina, 32, of 245 Preston St. in Hartford was arrested by Hartford police at his home and charged with being a fugitive from justice in Massachusetts.

He was arrested in connection with a warrant for his arrest issued by Worcester police. In that warrant Mr. Medina is charged with five counts of disinterment of bodies, conspiracy to commit a crime (disinterment of bodies), and accessory before the fact (breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony).

Mr. Medina is to be arraigned in Hartford on Monday.

Worcester police, meanwhile, confirmed Saturday night that a mausoleum at Hope Cemetery was broken into nearly two months ago and that skeletal remains were found to be missing from damaged caskets inside.

A member of the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and a forensic anthropologist were called to analyze the scene, and it was determined that five sets of skeletal remains had been stolen from the mausoleum - those of three adults and two young children, according to police.

The break into the mausoleum was discovered on the morning of Oct. 9 by a woman who was walking in the cemetery, police said.

When she noticed that the mausoleum had been broken into she notified cemetery employees, who then reported it to the police.

The mausoleum, which had the name "Houghton" inscribed on its front, was secured by two wooden doors and a wrought iron gate that had been secured with a heavy guage chain and lock, according to police.

Upon arriving at the scene, police officers noticed that the chain had been cut. The cut marks also had a rust buildup, indicating the incident may have occurred prior to the discovery, police said.

After breaking into the mausoleum, police said the suspect placed the chain and lock back in place in an attempt to avoid discovery.

The exact time of the incident is not known.

Upon entering the mausoleum, police officers found that several crypts had been forced open and that several bodies had been disinterred.

Officers also observed damage to the crypt's panels as well as damage to the caskets and that the skeletal remains were missing from the damaged caskets.

Based on those findings, the Police Department's Detective Bureau was called and took charge of the investigation. The Worcester Police Crime Scene Unit processed the mausoleum for potential evidence.

Police said an extensive investigation was done in an attempt to locate the missing human remains. Also, investigators attempted to locate family members, but were unsuccessful.

It is believed that the last time a person was interred in the mausoleum was approximately 71 years ago, police said.

Hartford police said patrol units came to Mr. Medina's apartment Friday afternoon after receiving a tip that he had stored human remains there.

They said when police made contact with Mr. Medina, they were allowed inside his apartment.

Hartford police detectives obtained and executed a search warrant for Mr. Medina's apartment, where the remains were subsequently located and secured as evidence.

They said Mr. Medina was "cooperative and forthcoming" and showed the officers where the remains were located.

Soon after the skeletal remains were discovered, Hartford police contacted Worcester police detectives. They informed Worcester police of their discovery and that they had made contact with Mr. Medina.

Worcester police said investigators will coordinate with Connecticut officials with regard to recovering the remains. Investigators will also be working on rendition proceedings for Mr. Medina.

According to the Hartford Courant, Mr. Medina told Hartford police he was using the bones in ceremonies for healing for Santeria.

Santeria (The way of the Saints) incorporates elements of several faiths including Catholicism and deities worshiped in West Africa. Some who practice the religion use animal sacrifices.

This investigation is ongoing, police said.
As reported by Monica Madeja of NBC Connecticut, December 8, 2015:

A 32-year-old Santeria priest accused of stealing five skeletons from a Massachusetts mausoleum appeared in court Tuesday, where a judge set his bail at $100,000.

Amador Medina, of Hartford, Connecticut, appeared in a Worcester courtroom Tuesday morning on charges of breaking into and stealing the remains of five family members laid to rest in a mausoleum at Hope Cemetery.

Investigators said the skeletons belonged to three adults and two children in the Houghton family and were believed to have been interred in the early 1900s. The crime was discovered Oct. 9, when a visitor to the cemetery noticed open crypts.

Medina is a priest who practices Santeria, an Afro-Cuban religion derived from the beliefs and customs of the Yoruba people that incorporates elements of the Catholic faith. Investigators said Medina wanted the bones for medicinal reasons, and that older bones are preferred.

Police allege they found the remains in two garbage bags on the porch of Medina's apartment.

Authorities said Tuesday that Medina claimed to have bought the bones from someone else.

"The defendant had stated that he had purchased these remains from another individual, but he was aware that they did come from the mausoleum and he did not have permission to have those remains," Assistant District Attorney Joe Simmons said.

Medina was scheduled to start a new job today, according to his attorney. That attorney argued that because of his work history and minimal criminal record, bail should be set between $1,000 and $2,000.

Instead, the judge lowered the prosecution's suggestion of $200,000, setting cash bail at $100,000.

Medina is set to appear again in court next month.

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