TAMPA, Fla. – Police say a man may have dug up a partially raised grave at a local cemetery in order to steal dirt to use for religious purposes.
Sunday, workers noticed a grave had been disturbed at the cemetery and on Monday afternoon a parks security officer noticed two men walking away from the grave.
When they saw the officer, both men took off running. During the chase, the officer says Andres Sotelo-Rivero, 44, threw a brick at him.
Sotelo-Rivero was eventually arrested and charged with aggravated assault and disrupting a grave.
Inside the backpack he was carrying, officers found a tire iron, a hammer and bones. The bones are human remains, the medical examiner confirmed.
“We don’t know exact motives yet,” said Lt. Ruben Delgado of the Tampa Police Department. “(We) don’t know if he was trying (to steal from the grave) just for theft of stuff or religious ritual. The only thing he led us to believe was that the dirt was for religious purposes, but even that we’re still working on it.”
County workers said it’s likely the bones were stolen to be used for voodoo rituals. They said it’s becoming a growing problem, and it’s the third such theft this year alone.
The bones are often found at an area beach, along with goat and chicken heads.
The grave site that was disturbed is partially raised with a big cement pad on top, Lt. Delgado said.
According to the headstone, Galtano and Maria Rosa Candileri were buried there: Galtano was born Aug. 11, 1850, and died Oct. 29, 1936. Maria Rosa was born Feb. 12, 1857, and died Nov. 26, 1924.
According to the Hillsborough County Jail website, Sotelo-Rivero was arrested less than two days ago on charges of driving with a suspended license and carrying a concealed weapon of a knife. Sotelo-Rivero was arrested and released early Monday morning.