Okay, first off, that headline may be misleading. It is highly unlikely that a “Wiccan Ritual Killing” took place ANYWHERE, let alone sleepy Pensacola, Florida.
What DID happen, according to this article from NBC NEWS, is that the local Sheriff’s office spokesperson, one Andrew Hobbes, decided that a triple murder that took place on July 28th must be a “Wiccan Ritual Killing” because of “the injuries to the victims, the positions of the bodies and also the person of interest right now is also a practitioner.”
Now, that statement from Hobbes may make it sound like he knows what he is talking about. (It is also true that the original confusing statements may have come from Sheriff Morgan, as some news sources are conflating the two men and their words.) Except that I am fairly certain there is nothing in any book on Wicca that has ever been published on Planet Earth that describes body positions consistent with ritual murder. But then I am not an expert.
Oh, wait. YES I AM.
What’s worrying is that these three people were obviously the victims of a brutal crime and the killer or killers are still at large. The victims included an elderly woman named Voncile Smith, 77, and her two sons Richard, 49 and John, 47. Richard Smith was employed by the Department of Homeland Security. The weapon used is believed to have been a claw hammer, which caused the blunt force trauma that caused their deaths, but all three victims apparently also had their throats cut. Ms. Smith also had a gunshot wound to her head and neck area.
A hammer? Effective as a murder weapon, to be sure. But since when are hammers one of the ritual tools used in Wicca? Nothing is said about the weapon used to slit the victim’s throats, nor does the article draw any connection between this and the allegation that Wicca is somehow involved.
A neighbor is quoted later in the article, giving the obligatory warning about SMALL CHILDREN and their possible exposure to the occult:
“It’s frightening to think about. Especially when you have small children,” neighbor Ken Lester said, according to affiliate WECT. “To find out that it was this weird, satanic cult, witchcraft whatever, is just really unsettling.”
What we have here is a place that time has apparently forgot, where apparently the county sheriff has never heard of the West Memphis Three, one of the most highly-profiled criminal cases of the last hundred years.
And NBC News, and local affiliate WECT (A FOX news channel), which called the killing a “gruesome witchcraft ritual,” well, you both have some explaining to do for your shoddy journalism and poor editorial judgment.
Be sure to visit the websites in question, along with sites like Boing Boing, which uses the words “blue moon ritual killing” in its headline, but then offers this reasonable statement: “The sheriff says the suspect was a “Wiccan,” but even if you think Wiccans are eccentric weirdos, their well-documented traditions do not involve killing people.” Offer your views on irresponsible journalism and fear-mongering where you see it (like in this International Business Times article which displays a tacky photo of Wiccan ritual at the top, and carries the sensationalist headline: Blue moon Florida murders: Witches blamed for ritualistic Wiccan killing of three), and show your appreciation for those who, like Boing Boing, at least try to shed some light on things.
Boing Boing, bless ’em, also clarifies the wrong-headedness of blaming the Blue Moon for any of this: That’s a little confusing. The recent blue moon (a second full moon within one calendar month) was on Friday, July 31, not the Tuesday date the sheriff referenced. “The sheriff did not explain the discrepancy and his office did not return a telephone call seeking clarification,” AP reports.
More shades of the West Memphis Three, where three child murders that took place on May 5th were blamed on occult involvement because of that date’s proximity to Beltane.
More on this story as it develops.