Palo Mayombe Priest Gets Jail For Possessing Stolen Human Remains

NEWARK, N.J. — A priest in the Palo Mayombe religious cult who was convicted of possessing human remains stolen from cemeteries was sentenced this week to five years in state prison.

Oscar Cruz, 50, was charged in August 2002 after Newark police raided a city botanica he owned and operated and found him in the basement with caldrons that contained bones from five people. Two sets of the remains were later identified as those of Jacob Schmidt and Richard Jenkinson, whose bones were stolen from Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Newark.

Palo Mayombe is a derivative of a West African religion that enslaved Africans brought to Cuba in the 19th century and was transported to the United States in the last few decades, according to experts. The faith’s practitioners conduct ceremonies around iron caldrons containing skulls and other human bones.

Cruz was convicted in January on two counts of receiving stolen property. He has served 105 days in jail and, under the sentence imposed Wednesday, will be eligible for parole in about nine months.

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Associated Press, USA
May 7, 2004

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