Allegations of a witchcraft sacrifice during a full moon? This story is FULL of doubtful “facts” that propagate harmful myths.
A triple homicide in Florida is suspected to be a “Wiccan ritual killing” related to the “blue” moon, police said Tuesday.
The three victims, all from the same family, were found after a welfare check on Friday, July 31, said Escambia County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Andrew Hobbes.
“It appears that this might be connected to some type of Wiccan ritual killing and possibly tied to the blue moon,” Hobbes told NBC News.
Voncile Smith was 77. She died of blunt force trauma, possible from a claw hammer. Her two sons, Richard, 49, and John, 47, were also killed, John, in the same manner as his mother, and Richard, shot in the ear as he entered the house. All had their throats cut.
The media has JUMPED on the police comments about this being a ritual murder and put it into headlines, specifically, witchcraft and Wicca have been seemingly conflated and demonized. Wiccans do not sacrifice people or anything else living.
The victims were found on Friday. The second full moon of the month, the so called “blue moon,” occurred that night. They were killed about 3 days prior to this, sometime after 7PM on Tuesday it’s reported. The police clearly erred in their statement of the relation to the moon phase.
The police sergeant said that they are relating this to a ritual killing because of the injuries to the victims (hammer and slit throats) and the positions of the bodies. They also state “the person of interest right now is also a practitioner.” What does that mean? Is he a carpenter? Or a known psychopath? Because what religion calls for this? What sort of position were they in and how do they conclude “ritual killing” from that?
Who made the police experts in cult killings? Law enforcement officials have often jumped to erroneous conclusions regarding devil worshipping cults and other nefarious religious practices as the scapegoat for bizarre crimes. They’ve done it again.
While there are details left to be uncovered, the irresponsible and premature comments by police managed to mistakenly reinforce a moon myth deeper into the culture and wrongly insulted Wiccan followers. Even if they retracted or clarified their egregiously improper statements, the damage is done.
ADDITION: Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheist talked to some actual experts on the Wicca connection. Check it out.
Tip: Megan D. & Jeb Card
UPDATE: (6-Aug 2015) The local sheriff is dodging requests for explanation of the “ritual killing” link but they are attempting to backtrack. (It won’t work; they messed up.) And the Smith family is denying that the moon or the occult had anything to do with this. Wicca experts are speaking out about the ridiculous accusations as well.
This is the Sheriff’s quote from the statement from the press conference. He did not mention “Wicca” in particular, but witchcraft. (As I noted above, it somehow got conflated.)
Media: Sheriff, you mentioned that it might be some religious or spiritual tie to this. Can you give us a little more of an idea about that?
Well, again, the time of the blue moon every three years, the method of the murders and also our person of interest is known to practice this.
Media: Can you say what religion that is?
It’s witchcraft. I’ll say that right now. There are different factions of that. While it doesn’t bother me to release it being their being, most assuredly, you do not want to want to defame or demean any particular practices.
Therefore, it may have been a reporter that rolled this snowball into a bigger faux pas. Is the Sheriff suggesting that there had been a similar incident or threat last blue moon? Their person of interest is said to practice “witchcraft”. It is not at all clear what that means and we should hesitate to take the word of police in characterizing that. I do hope police spokespeople around the country have learned a lesson about talking to the media. Stop speculation. Stick to giving the facts.