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BLOODY TONGUE CALLED PART OF SANTERIA CURSE.

Byline: Troy Anderson Staff Writer

Those suspected of hanging a cow's tongue from a tree outside the Lancaster welfare office paid $3,000 to $5,000 to a Santeria priest to sacrifice a young cow to obtain the tongue, court records allege.

Richard F. Smith, vice president of Burbank investigative corporation R.J. Frasco Agency, wrote in a report filed in Los Angeles Superior Court that an Antelope Valley Santeria priest researched how the tongue was obtained and discovered that some unidentified people paid a priest $3,000 to $5,000 to sacrifice a young cow and remove its tongue.

``The person who conducted the ritual has very strong magic,'' the priest told Smith. ``The curse is only conjured by the priest. The ones who carry out the curse are the evil spirits who have been paid in blood.''

A veterinarian told sheriff's investigators that the tongue, with the larynx still attached, was ``not the usual cut that could be store bought but was taken out of a cow's mouth by first prying open the jaws and then cutting it away.''

Last month, the county Claims Board paid an $85,000 settlement to Department of Public Social Services eligibility workers Julie Scheuer of Lancaster and Kathryn Sierra of Palmdale, who complained that fellow workers hung the tongue July 28, 1997, as part of a Santeria death threat. Scraps of paper bearing the names of Scheuer, Sierra and 12 other workers were pinned to the tongue.

``The cow's tongue was part of a Santeria or voodoo ritual,'' sheriff's Detective Brian Moriguchi wrote in the Sept. 8, 1997, sheriff's report. ``It was a ritual intended to invoke the help of one or more orishas, or Santeria deities or gods.''

Moriguchi believed the case was an ``inside job'' because the names attached to the tongue included maiden names of employees, including misspellings, that could have only been obtained from office personnel files, Smith wrote.

Although Moriguchi identified those he suspected of hanging the tongue, he wrote in his report that he did not believe the ritual represented a death threat and he recommended that the District Attorney's Office not file charges.

No charges were ever filed.

About 20 county workers in the Lancaster office were said to practice Santeria. The county reassigned one person and a department manager met with the Lancaster staff to allay fears.

The workers who practiced Santeria have denied having anything to do with that or with harassing co-workers.

But Pasadena attorney Michael Linfield wrote in the lawsuit that shortly after the cow tongue incident, two employees whose names appeared on the tongue had their tires slashed, a third reported a break-in at home and another employee found a severed dog's head 100 feet from the worker's home.

Other employees had their cars vandalized, including large nails hammered into the tires, the suit says, and on about six instances, Scheuer and Sierra found chicken feathers on their desks.

Later, both Scheuer and Sierra were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks and sought treatment. One employee whose name was on the tongue suffered a heart attack several months later.

Sheriff's Sgt. Richard Valdemar, an expert on ritual abuse and the occult, said people being targeted by Santeria rituals are ``a lot more common than people think.''

In an April 8, 1998, memo, David Miyashita, a human resources manager, wrote that while the cow tongue incident ``was outrageous and offensive, the evidence does not indicate that the intent was to harass anyone on the basis of religion.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 8, 2001
Words:588
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