Police: Santeria priest raided cemetery, took remains of 5

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HARTFORD, CONN. >> A man described by police as a Santeria priest raided a cemetery and took the remains of five people for use in religious ceremonies, authorities said.

Amador Medina, 32, was scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Hartford on a charge of being a fugitive from justice from Worcester, Massachusetts, where authorities allege he stole the remains two months ago from a family mausoleum that dates to 1903.

Police arrested Medina on Friday after the remains were found in his Hartford apartment. Medina told police he was a Santeria priest and wanted the human bones for religious and healing ceremonies, said Hartford Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley.

"We see (Santeria) rarely in Hartford," Foley said. "When we do, it's generally with animals. Very even more rarely you get human remains."

Medina was in custody. It wasn't clear if he has a lawyer who could respond to the allegations.

Santeria mixes Roman Catholicism with a traditional African faith. Scholars say it was imported to Cuba through slaves brought from the Nigeria's Yoruba tribe, and it is now widely practiced in the Caribbean.

Foley said police have learned that practitioners of Santeria use human bones for medicinal purposes, and the age of the deceased and how long they have been dead are relevant to those practices.

The remains of three adults and two young children were stolen from the Houghton family mausoleum in Hope Cemetery in Worcester, where police have obtained an arrest warrant charging Medina with five counts of disinterment of bodies and other crimes. Medina will face extradition to Massachusetts.

The mausoleum was built for the family of Charles Chandler Houghton, a prosperous boot manufacturer and real estate developer in Worcester, The Telegram & Gazette newspaper reported.


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