Woman accused of heading cult, stealing bodies

AP, Mar. 5, 2003

NEWARK, N.J. — A woman was charged with leading a cult that stole bodies from city cemeteries and used them in religious ceremonies, police said.

Miriam Mirabel, 60, of Irvington, was arrested Monday by Essex County authorities. Police had been looking for her since one of her followers was arrested in August after being found with skulls and other human remains.

Authorities said Mirabel told her followers to steal two bodies from Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in 2001 and one body from Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in 2002. Some of the remains were taken to a religious store in Newark, where they were used in religious ceremonies, police said.

Mirabel was a priestess in the Palo Mayombe cult, which originated among West African slaves.

She pleaded innocent at an arraignment Tuesday to charges of burglary, theft of human remains and conspiracy. She was ordered held on $500,000 bail.

Her attorney, John Convery, called the case ghoulish, but said the large bail amount was excessive.

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