Sheriff: Grave Robbers Stole Human Remains for Religious Shrine

Juan Burgos Lopez
Lake County Police

Two men accused of stealing remains from gravesites in Lake County, Florida, were arrested recently thanks to DNA evidence left at the scene.

“Lake County deputies said they were called to the Edgewood Cemetery on Britt Road in Mount Dora on Dec. 6 after somebody reported vandalism to some of the graves,” WESH reported Thursday.

At the time of the discovery, investigators said it was “very likely tied to some form of ritualistic activity” and sent cigars found at the scene to a lab for testing.

The WESH report continued:

The test results came back as a match to 43-year-old Brian Montalvo Tolentino, who lives in Davenport. Lake County investigators said they met with and interviewed Tolentino, during which he confessed to going to the cemetery with 39-year-old Juan Burgos Lopez, of Lake Wales. Tolentino told investigators that Lopez used a crowbar to open the vaults and then removed the heads of the deceased, deputies said. Tolentino told investigators they removed four heads from the four graves and then returned to Lopez’s home.

Tolentino reportedly told authorities the heads were taken for religious purposes.

Wednesday night, Polk County deputies got a search warrant for Lopez’s home where they found six skulls, a hand, a partial arm, and multiple other bones inside what appeared to be some kind of “religious shrine.”

“Deputies said Lopez told them which skulls had been taken from Edgewood Cemetery and claimed the other two skulls were obtained from other practitioners,” the WESH article read.

Reporter Bob Hazen tweeted Thursday that one of the men arrested appeared to be of the Palo Mayombe religion:

At a press briefing on Friday, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd showed photos of the shrine:

“Both Lopez and Tolentino were arrested on the Lake County warrants in Polk County, and are being held in lieu of $40,000 bond each,” WFLA reported.

They were charged with four counts of disturbing the contents of a grave and four counts of abuse to a dead human body and may face additional charges in Polk County.

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