A bizarre murder case is making headlines in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and at the center of it is a Wiccan and her ceremonial blade. 30-year-old Angela Sanford is being charged with the murder of Joel Leyva, a killing that Sanford claims was in self-defense after Leyva attempted to sexually assault her, but police say her story doesn’t add up.
“When Leyva arrived, the two walked from the Copper Avenue trailhead into the open space where they drank some beer and a miniature of Tequila. It was then that Sanford said she had to use the restroom and Leyva asked if he could watch. While she was using the restroom, Leyva removed a rope belt from her waist and tied her up. He also removed a dagger she had in her back pocket. Sanford said the dagger is used in Wiccan rituals and also told investigators she convinced Leyva to untie her as she wanted both of them to get undressed. When they did, she got on top of Leyva and stabbed him with her dagger. In her version to police, she said she only stabbed him about three times, but investigators reported finding as many as 13 stab wounds to Leyva’s head and torso. Sanford said she later told witnesses that she was raped and needed them to call police. Witnesses later stated that when they found Sanford she was only wearing her underwear. The investigation by police later proved that the story of rape was false. Sanford is being held on a $500,000 cash or surety bond.”
Both local new sources and the Associated Press have made note of her MySpace profile, though thankfully neither have tried to make any guesses about her mental status from the postings there. What is troubling is that local police are trying to see if there’s a Wiccan angle to this killing.
“Doing some research into this case, this is a time of Wiccan holiday being the solstice, and we’re still in the process of determining whether or not that had anything to do with this particular homicide case occurring,” [APD Chief Ray] Schultz said.
Let’s just hope that they turn to an actual scholar in modern Paganism, or a local leader in the Pagan community, instead of calling in some sham “occult expert” to give context to the religious elements in this case. As for the journalistic coverage so far, it’s been pretty sensationalist and terrible. KRQE seems to be reading up on the religion from Wicca.org, home of the infamous Gavin & Yvonne Frost’s Church and School of Wicca, they initially referred to the murder as a possible “ritual killing” (since taken down), and nobody has seemed to talk to an actual Wiccan or Pagan yet for some perspective and insight.
Hopefully these problems will be addressed in future coverage of this case, and the issue of Sanford’s religion, both in the press and in legal proceedings, is separated from the question of if this murder was committed in self-defense or not.