Eight people have been arrested in for allegedly killing two boys and one woman as human sacrifices for La Santa Muerte -- the saint of death -- in Northern Mexico, authorities said.
The boys, both 10, and woman, 55, were killed and their blood poured around an altar to the saint in a cult ritual, Jose Larrinaga, spokesman for Sonora state prosecutors told the Associated Press.
According to the AP, there had previously been no confirmed cases of human sacrifices to the saint in Mexico. "Saint Death," depicted as a skeleton dressed in a long robe and carrying a scythe, has in recent years become a favorite among criminals and drug traffickers in Mexico, though is not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church.
The first of the three victims was apparently killed in 2009, the second in 2010 and the latest earlier this month, Larringa said. Investigations suggest their throats and wrists were slit and their blood was poured around an altar, he said.
“The ritual was held at nighttime, they lit candles,” Larrinaga said. “They sliced open the victims’ veins and, while they were still alive, they waited for them to bleed to death and collected the blood in a container.”
Authorities began investigating this month after the last victim, 10-year-old Jesus Octavio Martinez Yanez, was reported missing March 6. The investigation turned up the altar site in the Sonora city of Nacozari, about 70 miles south of Douglas, Arizona, according to the AP.
Those arrested include Silvia Meraz and her son Ramon Palacios, who Larrinaga said were leaders of the cult dedicated to La Santa Muerte. He said Meraz allegedly spread the blood around the altar while Palacios allegedly killed the victims. The suspects, many of them relatives, ranged in age from a 15-year-old girl to a 44-year-old woman.
“We all agreed to do it. Supposedly she was a witch or something,” Meraz told reporters Friday, referring to the woman victim.