A Florida mother and her two adult sons were apparently beaten to death with a claw hammer and had their throats cut in a “Wiccan ritual killing” thought to be related to the blue moon on July 31.
Investigators found 77-year-old Voncile Smith and her two sons, 49-year-old Richard and 47-year-old John, all dead inside of their apartment, according to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies say they were killed on July 28, a few days before the blue moon. A "blue moon" occurs when a calendar month has two full moons. The bodies were only discovered after the employer of one of the sons realized he had missed work, reports NBC News.
The mother and her son John were apparently clubbed to death with a claw hammer. Richard was shot in the ear as he entered the house, said Escambia County Sherriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Andrew Hobbes.
All three had their throats slit and deputies say the positions of the bodies indicate a ritualistic killing.
“All three victims were killed by blunt force trauma. There was no forced entry into the residence and nothing was taken from the residence to indicate this was any type of a robbery,” said Sheriff David Morgan.
“The crime scene was complex and took several days to work. The elements of this case are odd at best," Morgan said.
"It’s witchcraft, I’ll say that right now," he added. "You know, there are different factions of that. While it doesn’t bother me to release that particular thing, we most assuredly do not want to defame or demean any particular practice, if you will.”
Detectives have questioned a person of interest who practices a religion related to witchcraft, though they have not named him and the investigation is ongoing, reports NY Daily News.
Further compounding the mystery, the victims came from a “very reclusive family.” Richard worked in a high-level role for the Department of Homeland Security. The family had lived in the house for 27 years, but some neighbors said they have never met them, reports CNN.
Wicca is a religion that practices pre-Christian traditions from Western Europe. Most Wiccans engage in a kind of magical practice and worship nature and often believe in many gods. The religion does not encourage ritualistic killing.
"It's frightening to think about. Especially when you have small children," one neighbor told NBC affiliate WECT. “To find out that it was this weird, satanic cult, witchcraft whatever, is just really unsettling."
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Screenshot via CNN