A Connecticut man accused of stealing five sets of human remains from a cemetery in Worcester, Massachusetts, practices Santeria and took the skeletons for religious reasons, according to police.
Investigators said Amador Medina, 32, of Hartford, Connecticut, stole the remains of three adults and two young children from Hope Cemetery. Medina was arrested Friday as a fugitive from justice.
Medina is a priest who practices Santeria, an Afro-Cuban religion developed from the beliefs and customs of the Yoruba people and incorporating some elements of the Catholic religion. Investigators said Medina wanted the bones for medicinal reasons as part of his religion, and that older bones are preferred.
"He is a practicing Santeria priest, which is a religion in some Latino communities that you see. It’s rarely seen actually," said Hartford Police Deputy Chief Brian Foley. "The age of the deceased, as well as how long they have been deceased, is relevant in how they use those remains in their medicinal value."
The missing remains were discovered Oct. 9, when a visitor to the cemetery noticed someone had broken into the mausoleum. Police responded and found several crypts forced open and five bodies missing.
Investigators searched Medina's apartment Friday based on a tip. Police said Medina showed investigators where he stashed the bones.
The bodies are believed to have been from the early 1900s. Investigators believe no one has been interred in the mausoleum in the past 71 years.
Worcester police will charge Medina with five counts of disinterment of bodies, conspiracy to disinter bodies and accessory before the fact to breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony.
It was not immediately cleared if Medina had an attorney. He is expected to be arraigned Monday in Hartford.