Police believe that the Florida murders of Voncile Smith, 77, and her two adult sons may have been “ritualistic killings” that were connected to last week’s blue moon, an Escambia County Sheriff’s Office spokesman said. The Smiths were found dead in their Pensacola home on Friday.
According to Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan, all three victims were bludgeoned with a claw hammer and had their throats slit. Richard Smith, 49, had also been shot in the ear as he entered the family home, sheriff’s office spokesman Andrew Hobbes told NBC news. Officials believe the Smiths were killed sometime after 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
The “ritualistic” element isn’t totally clear. Morgan told reporters that there was no evidence that a robbery had taken place, and when asked what led police to believe the killings were ritualistic, he said “The method of the murder — blunt force trauma, slit throats, positioning of bodies — and our person of interest has some ties to a faith or religion that is indicative of that. The time of the death on Tuesday also coincides with what’s referred to as a blue moon, which occurs every three years.”
The blue moon—meaning the second full moon of the month—occurred on Friday, the day the Smiths’ bodies were found, but police believe they were killed three days before. According to the Associated Press, “The sheriff did not explain the discrepancy and his office did not return a telephone call seeking clarification.”
Spokesman Hobbes said that the triple murder “might be connected to some type of Wiccan ritual killing.” Morgan did not mention Wiccanism explicitly at a press conference. “It’s witchcraft, I’ll say that right now,” Morgan said. “There are different factions of that. While it doesn’t bother me to release a particular thing, we most assuredly do not want to defame or demean any particular practice,” Morgan said at a press conference.
Richard Smith was an employee of the federal Department of Homeland Security. Morgan described the family as “reclusive,” USA Today reports, and said that no neighbors who were interviewed had been inside the Smiths’ home.