A Hartford, Connecticut, resident facing charges after police found skeletal remains in his apartment from five bodies police believe were stolen from a Massachusetts cemetery told authorities he had the bones in his South End home for religious reasons.
Amador Medina, 32, of Hartford, was arrested by Hartford police Friday on fugitive from justice charges because Worcester police have a warrant out for his arrest, according to Hartford police. He's also facing pending charges in Massachusetts in connection to mausoleum break-ins and body thefts.
Officers responded to 245 Preston Street on Friday after receiving a report about stored human skeletal remains. After making contact with the tenant, Medina, officers were permitted to enter his second-floor apartment.
Medina cooperated with police and showed them where the skeletal remains were in the apartment, police said.
“He is a practicing Santeria priest which is a religion in some Latino communities that you see. It’s rarely seen actually," Hartford Police Deputy Chief Brian Foley said. "The bones or the remains of the skeletal remains that were taken from the cemetery are used in this religion for medicinal purposes....The age of the deceased as well as how long they have been deceased is relevant in how they use those remains in their medicinal value."
Police seized bones found in his apartment that turned out to be from five bodies. Those skeletal remains are believed to be from a mausoleum at the Hope Cemetery in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Worcester police say the remains were discovered missing back on Oct. 9, when a visitor to the cemetery noticed the mausoleum, which has the name “Houghton” inscribed on the front, showed signs of a break in. Police responded and found several crypts forced open and five bodies missing.
Investigators tried to find family members of the deceased but were unsuccessful. Police estimate the last person was laid to rest in the mausoleum about 71 years ago.
Police haven't released information at this time as to how the skeletal remains of five people ended up in Medina's Hartford apartment.
Some Hartford residents who spoke to NBC Connecticut were stunned to hear the news.
"Kind of crazy. Kind of creepy, yeah," Jose Mercedes, of Hartford, said.
Neighbors said they've seen Medina around, often dressed in white.
"Like one of those people who do voodoo and type stuff like that but I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary," Mercedes said.
Hartford Police Department Major Crimes Division officers are investigating the case and working with Massachusetts law enforcement and the Connecticut State's Attorney's Office.
Worcester police will charge Medina with five counts of disinterment of bodies, conspiracy to commit a crime (disinterment of bodies) and accessory before the fact (breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony). Investigators are working on rendition proceedings.
Medina is due in court on Monday.
He has a minor criminal background, but he's been cooperative with police, Foley said.