ESCAMBIA CO., Fla — Investigators found three people hammered to death with their throats slit inside a Florida home in a case that authorities said Tuesday could be linked to witchcraft.
The way the victims were killed, the position of their bodies and the timing of the slayings has detectives wondering whether a triple homicide was a “ritualistic killing” tied to last week’s blue moon, a sheriff told reporters Tuesday.
The victims’ throats had been slit and all three of them were hit with a claw hammer, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said, according to video posted on The Pensacola News-Journal’s website.
There are “some indications in the investigation that witchcraft may have been involved,” sheriff’s office spokeswoman Sena Madison told CNN.
Authorities have questioned a person of interest, Morgan said.
“Initial research has led us to believe that there was a potential that it was a ritualistic killing,” he said.
Sheriff: Slain family was ‘reclusive’
Combing through the crime scene of the complicated case has taken investigators days, he said, and they still haven’t arrested or charged anyone in the killings.
“The elements of the case,” Morgan told reporters, “are odd at best.”
The three victims — 77-year-old Voncile Smith and her sons, 49-year-old Richard Thomas Smith and 47-year-old John William Smith — came from a “very reclusive family,” the sheriff said. Neighbors who’d lived near them for years told investigators they’d never met them. Richard Thomas Smith, a Department of Homeland Security employee, had also been shot in the head in what authorities believe was an effort to incapacitate him.
The method of the killings and how the bodies were positioned when investigators found them on Friday also made the crime scene “very complex,” the sheriff said.
The timing of the killings is also notable and coincided with last week’s blue moon, Morgan said, though he didn’t specify exactly how.
The bodies were discovered on Friday, the same day as the rare lunar event. Investigators believe that the killing occurred Tuesday evening, Morgan said.
No signs of forced entry
Authorities haven’t released the identity of the so-called person of interest or detailed why they believe that person, who practices witchcraft, is tied to the case.
“There are different factions of (witchcraft). While it doesn’t bother me to release that particular thing, I most assuredly do not want to defame or demean any particular practice,” Morgan said.
There were no signs of forced entry or robbery at the home, he said, and authorities are still searching for information about what happened.
“While we have a person of interest,” Morgan said, “there are still many things about this case we want to pursue.”
Javier De Diego contributed to this report.