A Bolivian woman died after being tied to a tree infested with ants.
The 52-year-old woman, whose name has not been released, was tied to the tree on New Year’s Eve by vigilantes who suspected her of stealing a car, reports the Daily Mail.
She was still alive when rescued by police, but died in the hospital from respiratory problems due to throat swelling caused by the ant bites.
The woman had reportedly gone from the Bolivian capital of La Paz to the town of Caranavi to help her son, who had already been bound to the tree by the vigilantes. Her daughter was also reportedly tied to the tree, but escaped along with the son.
The tree they were tied to was a Palo Santo, which translates literally as "holy wood." The tree is favored as a source of incense and essential oil, but is also known to attract Brazilian fire ants that inflict poisonous bites. The trio of victims were also reportedly beaten and burnt using an accelerant.
A picture was published by a local radio station showing two of the victims blindfolded and bound to the tree while villagers casually looked on from a few feet away.
“We managed to rescue all three people but one of them, the 52-year-old woman, was in a bad way and had to be taken to [the] hospital,” announced local police chief Gunter Agudo. “She died at 3.30 p.m. on New Year's Eve.”
According to authorities, the woman and her children, aged 22 and 28, had traveled to the area from La Paz to collect a debt.
“Initially the investigation was opened as a probe into an attempted car theft but now it has been changed to a murder and serious assault investigation,” Agudo said.
Authorities have confirmed that there are several suspects in the crime, but only one person has been arrested so far. The unnamed suspect was reportedly arrested on Jan. 1 and remains in jail.