A man from Hartford, Connecticut was arrested after police discovered he had stolen five sets of human remains for the sake of religious practice.
According to the Huffington Post, 32-year-old Amador Medina was brought into custody by local police after they discovered the skeletons of three adults and two children inside his apartment. Medina had allegedly robbed a Worcester, Massachusetts mausoleum in the hopes of using the human remains for Santeria, a syncretic religion that originated in the Caribbean.
It was first noticed that the human remains had gone missing from Hope Cemetery almost two months ago, on October 9. Amador Medina had cut the chains securing the human remains within the mausoleum and broken open the wall panels. The caskets containing the bodies had also been busted open. Police discovered that it was Amador Medina behind the grave robberies after they received a tip.
Local deputy police chief Brian Foley acknowledged that there have been a few, rare cases of Santeria causing people to commit bizarre crimes, but they’ve never seen anyone steal human remains for the sake of the religion.
“We see [Santeria] rarely in Hartford,” he said. “When we do, it’s generally with animals. Very even more rarely you get human remains.”
When police brought in Amador Medina, he identified himself as a Santeria priest and claimed he stole the bones for “healing ceremonies,” according to the Associated Press.
Human remains were found inside two garbage bags on Medina’s porch, as well as inside the apartment along with animal bones, shrines and candles. Police explained that people who practice Santeria typically use the bones of animals or human remains for medicinal purposes. Usually, these rituals begin with a living sacrifice of animals taken from farms, but animal and human remains can also be bought and sold online.
According to religious scholars, Santeria is a mix of Roman Catholicism and traditional African religions that emerged in the Caribbean after the Nigeria Yoruba tribe brought it to Cuba.
The age of the bones is reportedly an important part of the religious ritual, which could explain why Amador Medina sought such old human remains. The last person to have been laid to rest in the crypt was put there 71 years ago, and police were unable to find any living relatives of the bodies Medina removed. The mausoleum was built way back in 1903 by a man named Charles Chandler Houghton.
The Santeria priest, Amador Medina, appeared in a Hartford Superior Court this Monday, but will be tried in Worcester, where the grave desecration took place. He is facing charges of breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony, conspiracy, and five counts of disinterment of human remains.
However, according to Mass Live, a police statement from Sgt. Gary Quitadamo reveals that Amador Medina may not have been the one who actually broke into the crypt to steal the human remains, but instead hired an unidentified individual to secure the bones for him.
“Subsequently Mr. Medina provided a statement to Hartford Police Detectives and indicated he directed an unidentified individual to secure [human remains] for Mr. Medina for an agreed upon payment. This individual subsequently broke into a locked mausoleum in Hope Cemetery and removed five skeletal remains.”
The break-in was discovered in October, but authorities believe Amador Medina may have instigated the grave robbery many months earlier, as far back as May 15.
What do you think about the Santeria priest stealing human remains to practice a religious ritual?
[Photo via Hartford Police Department]