Billy Baker, RegisterBee.com (VA), Feb. 24
CHATHAM, Va. — A Ringgold man who beheaded a rooster as part of a voodoo ritual was found guilty Monday in Pittsylvania County General District Court of refusal to bury a dead fowl and fined $30, according to the court clerk’s office.
On Dec. 22, Osungbemi Olaseni, who identified himself as a Babalawo, or high priest, in the Ifa religion, said he made the sacrifice to Shango, the god of enemies, because of a property line dispute with the Rowland Concrete Co.
Olaseni, who did not show up for the hearing, was found guilty of the class four misdemeanor by General District Court Judge George A. Jones Jr. Olaseni could not be reached for comment on the sentence.
Olaseni, who lives next door to the concrete company on Wilkerson Road, said he was told by Shango to hang the rooster from a tree on his property line, facing the cement plant.
Robert Hughes, the general manager of the plant who has been involved in several heated discussions with Olaseni, said he believed the bird symbolized a personal threat against his life and contacted authorities.
At the time, Olaseni said he would not remove the bird “until the forces tell us to move it.” His wife, Tola Adaramola, argued that the couple’s right to sacrifice was protected by the Supreme Court.
In 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court supported the right of individuals to sacrifice animals for religious purposes, overturning an ordinance passed by the city of Hialeah, Fla., that prevented the practice.
Adaramola defended the sacrifice, and said it was not meant as a threat.
“Any offering that is made to an orisa, or saint, is to help benefit us and not to do harm to us,” she said at the time. “This sacrifice was not intended to do harm to our neighbors or put fear in them.
“Since we could not resolve the dispute peacefully, we went to our forces and asked them to resolve it.”
Adaramola said the family raises chickens and goats for sacrifice, and has a shine to Esu, a neutral force, on their property.
Olaseni claimed Hughes became his “enemy” when he kicked him out of his office and called police after he went to complain that the company’s driveway was on his property.
A later survey proved that about 4 feet of the company’s driveway is on Olaseni’s property, Hughes said. The company later closed off the area.
Pittsylvania County Animal Control Officer Pete Boswell, who filed the charges against Olaseni, said he was pleased with the judge’s decision and his office will continue to prosecute such incidents.
“If we have a report that animals are left out and not buried or cremated, we will continue to investigate them as each case arises,” Boswell said.
Boswell said there have been no reports of animal sacrifices in the county since the December incident.
Why Santeria Woman Burned to Death in the Bronx
Jamie Schram and Ikimulisa Livingston, N. Y. Post, Feb. 26
February 26, 2004 — A Bronx woman who died during a Santeria cleansing ritual caught fire after she anointed her nude body with a flammable cologne and then made the sign of the cross using a lit candle, law enforcement sources said yesterday.
Minerva Perez, 41, died Tuesday in the University Heights apartment of her friend Mildred Sanchez, 62, who tried to beat out the flames with her hands.
Sanchez told police that she has nothing to do with Santeria — which began in Cuba and blends the west African Yoruba religion and Catholicism — and that she did not take part in Tuesday’s ritual, the sources said.
She told cops that Perez came over to her apartment at 51 North St. and told her “let me do what I have to do,” went into the bathroom and stripped.
Perez then rubbed Florida water — an alcohol-based floral and citrus-scented cologne used as a fragrance and in rituals — over her body, the sources said.
She wanted to undergo the spiritual cleansing to be cured of an undetermined illness.
Perez apparently also had asthma, because after she held the candle too close to her naked body and was engulfed in flames, she ran out of the bathroom and into the living room, where she grabbed a spray bottle of her asthma medication.
She ran into the kitchen and collapsed, with the bottle in her hand. Two officers on patrol outside heard screams coming from inside the building and kicked down the apartment door.
An autopsy was inconclusive and “we have to do some toxicology testing as well as tissue studies” to determine the cause of death, said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the Medical Examiner’s office.
The superintendent at the Riverdale building where Perez lived alone in a studio said she did office work and was “so pleasant.”
“I’m totally shocked,” he said of her death. “She’s the nicest girl.”
Neighbors said Sanchez was always taking care of stray cats and dogs in the neighborhood.
Rosaura Serrano, 59, who is bedridden, said Sanchez would often stop in to see how she was feeling.
“If you say you need something from the store, she’d go,” she said. “[And] she was always out there helping the animals.”
But her daughter, Ramona Serrano, said she has heard Sanchez “speaking strangely and using incense and talking about healing and things.”