In a bizarre and horrific case out of East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, two women have been arrested and charged in connection with the case of a burned and permanently disfigured 5-year-old girl. According to police, the 5-year-old was injured in a voodoo ritual performed by the women, a pair of sisters, who were attempting to “remove a demon” from the child. As TIME reports, the two women allegedly performed the voodoo ritual at the request of the 5-year-old girl’s mother, who believed that a demon was causing her daughter to misbehave.
Police claim that 51-year-old Peggy LaBossiere and 40-year-old Rachel Hilaire admitted that they have performed a so-called “demon removing” voodoo ritual on family and friends in the past. The sisters described the ritual as a “cleansing bath,” and reportedly told investigators that the practice entailed anointing victim’s bodies with various oils, rubbing them with salt, burning myrrh, and reciting chanted prayers.
As Fox News reports, the women claimed that the process of demons and spirits leaving the body can sometimes cause burns. According to police, the 5-year-old girl involved in the voodoo ritual unfortunately suffered from severe third-degree burns on her face. The damage is expected to be permanent and leave the child disfigured for the rest of her life.
During the voodoo ritual, which was reportedly witnessed by the 5-year-old girl’s 8-year-old brother, the two women tied and held down the little girl, cut her collar area and arm deep enough to draw blood, and blew fire over the child’s face. Police also allege that the sisters poured something over the girl’s face that caused her eyes to sting.
LaBossiere and Hilaire are also accused of threatening to cut the 8-year-old boy’s head off with a machete. The older brother reportedly gave a detailed account of the voodoo ritual to police, and claimed that the abuse and assault took place over several days at the two women’s home.
The women have been charged with several crimes, including assault and battery on a child with injury, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, indecent assault and battery on a child under 14-years-old, threatening to commit a crime, and mayhem. The pair appeared in Brockton Superior Court on January 29 and pleaded not guilty to all charges. Their next court appearance is February 7, at which time a hearing is scheduled to determine if the sisters are too dangerous to be granted bail.
The 5-year-old girl’s mother reportedly came into contact with the sisters through her job as LaBossiere’s hair dresser. According to police, the mother has not been charged with a crime, but is undergoing “mental health treatment” in connection with the voodoo ritual allegedly performed on her daughter.
The little girl received medical treatment for her injuries following the demon-related voodoo ritual. Following her treatment, state welfare officials took custody of both the girl and her 8-year-old brother. In addition to pleading not guilty in the case, the two women have denied injuring the 5-year-old girl and threatening her brother.