Charges against group who sacrificed animals during Santeria ritual dropped

Ariel Arteaga Torres is only person from group still charged

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SAN ANTONIO – Animal cruelty charges against 10 of 11 people who participated in a Santeria ritual involving animal sacrifice have been dropped due to insufficient evidence, online court records show.

The district attorney's office declined to prosecute the group on cruelty to livestock animal charges citing a lack of evidence.

Bexar County sheriff's deputies were dispatched to a home in the 11400 block of Bronze Sand Road in March after neighbors reported seeing several people in the garage sacrificing animals with knives, BCSO said.

Top row: Carmen Maria Gonzalez-Trujillo, Ivan Felipe Gonzalez, Liza Mercado, Luis Rodriguez-OrtizMiddle Row: Arteaga Ariel Torres, Roberto Talamantez, Cynthia Martinez, Marie MuricaBottom Row: Ramon Patino, Irma Talamantez, Alexander Campos

Carmen Maria Gonzalez-Trujillo, Ivan Felipe Gonzalez, Liza Mercado, Luis Rodriguez-Ortiz, Arteaga Ariel Torres, Roberto Talamantez, Cynthia Martinez, Marie Murica, Ramon Patino, Irma Talamantez and Alexander Campos were all charged.

Torres is the only person still facing charges, but the District Attorney's office did not elaborate on why Torres' charge was not dismissed.

RELATED: BCSO releases mugshots of suspects in animal sacrifice case

Deputies found dead chickens, goats and other animals in the garage of the home.

Robert Talamantez, who is a type of priest called a Babalawo, told KSAT in March that the ceremony was for a newer member of the religion and involved animal sacrifices to different saints or gods, known as "Santos" or "Orishas."

The couple said that they're not cruel people or criminals, just believers of a misunderstood religion.

RELATED: Case history shows it will be difficult to prosecute people charged in animal sacrifice case 

The Talamantezes say there were about 30 people at the house for the ceremony, though only performed the sacrifices. The group had sacrificed a goat, three roosters, a pigeon and some chickens before deputies arrived, bringing it to a premature halt.

The ceremony was meant to mark the completion of a newer member's "sainthood," a yearlong journey that involves dressing in white, not eating at tables and other restrictions as a form of self-sacrifice.

RELATED: 'We're not cruel people': Couple arrested in Santeria ceremony says religion is misunderstood 

Robert Talamantez said the animals were sacrificed by cutting the jugular and letting them bleed out. Their blood was used to feed the Santos, which are represented by rocks in containers.

Afterward, the sacrificed animals are cut up to be cooked and eaten at a ceremonial dinner. Some of that was already underway when deputies arrived, Robert Talamantez said.

Though the animals were killed, Robert Talamantez said there was no cruelty - no beating or mutilation - and argued that slaughterhouses have worse conditions.


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