Judge commits 8 over exorcism killings

Associated Press/December 15, 2005
By Mark Stevenson

Mexico City -- A judge committed eight relatives to the psychiatric ward of a prison Thursday for the ritualistic slayings of two young family members that shocked Mexico with their brutality.

Officials said the parents, grandparents and aunts of a 7-month-old and 13-year-old hacked the baby to death and fatally stoned the teenager earlier this month after they became convinced the girls were demons or possessed by the devil.

Judge Ana Maria Raya Razo, who committed each family member for 40 years, told The Associated Press they had acknowledged killing the girls to save themselves from demons. The slayings were accompanied by prayers, candle-lighting and the sacrifice of farm animals, officials said.

A ninth suspect - an aunt described as the instigator of the slayings - was also sent to a psychiatric hospital after she became catatonic on the heels of her arrest. The killings were prompted by her visit to a faith healer, authorities said.

The family members were suffering "from a delusional psychotic state, with paranoia and hallucinations," Raya Razo said by telephone from Penjamo, the Guanajuato state township in remote western Mexico where the killings occurred.

"For example, they said they saw animals, demons in the girls," she said. "They said they had animals' faces, the faces of monkeys, that they had demons inside and had to be killed in order to for (the adults) to save themselves."

After being tipped off to the killings by an anonymous phone call, officers traveled on foot to the family's hamlet and found the baby girl mutilated and the body of the 13-year-old tied to a stake and battered to death.

About 10 children and adults - members of the extended family of about 30 - were found locked in a house, where they had been confined for three days, apparently because they also were suspected of being possessed, authorities said.

Goats, pigs and chickens had been sacrificed at the site, according to police reports.

The judge found that the children's parents took part in the killings but were not responsible for murder due to insanity. The teenager's grandfather and three aunts also were ordered committed.

The family members could be released before 40 years if psychiatric tests prove they have recovered, Raya Razo said.

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