The decapitation and mutilation of a goat, whose carcass was found this week near South Park, likely resulted from a ritualistic sacrifice practiced in one of several Afro-Caribbean traditions, according to an internationally recognized authority on ritual crime.
Don Rimer, a retired 33-year veteran of the Virginia Beach, Va., Police Department, says the facts of the case suggest that the animal probably was slaughtered in a ritual designed "to remove a sickness" or as an offering to a spirit.
"It was not a threat or placed there to frighten and it's not an announcement; that's not the purpose of it at all," Rimer said. "Those remains are the conclusion of a ceremony."
The remains of the headless goat, which also had its feet removed, were discovered at about 4 p.m. Wednesday by a group of boys playing in a remote area off Hopkins Street in South Buffalo. Buffalo police believe it was discarded in that location within 24 hours from when it was found.
Rimer, who serves as an investigator and consultant on ritual crimes to police agencies throughout the United States and Canada, believes from what he knows of the discovery by reading media reports that the signs point to a sacrificial offering in the Santeria tradition because:
*The head and feet of the goat were missing;
*The carcass was placed close to a recognized "mode of transportation";
*And three dimes were placed on the animal's carcass.
The ceremony itself would have occurred at another location where the head and feet were removed. Oten, they are cooked and kept in a type of cauldron, he said. Then, the carcass of the animal is disposed of, usually near a body of water or alongside a road or set of railroad tracks.
"Somewhere where there's a mode of travel," Rimer said. "To honor their gods, it's placed there because they believe the gods travel from place to place."
The three dimes is symbolically significant because it represents an important number of a deity in Santeria. Money also is a part of the ritual.
Santeria, or "the way of the saints," is one of several Afro-Caribbean traditions rooted in the West African slave trade that occurred during the colonial period.
When slaves were brought to the New World, their old religious practices were suppressed. A hybrid of practices blending ancient African religions with elements of Catholicism resulted. A great emphasis is placed upon symbolism, numbers and colors in these traditions.
Santeria as well as other Afro-Caribbean traditions are no longer confined to their traditional areas like New Orleans and Miami.
"Especially since the displacement after [Hurricane] Katrina, we're starting to see this all over," Rimer said. "We're getting calls from all over the country where we've never had this before."
Authorities believed Santeria also was being practiced in Buffalo in February 2006 when a white rabbit was left at a West Side porch with its front paws cut off. At the time, police said they thought it was a ritual used in Santeria to put a hex on another person.
In recent weeks, authorities in Henrietta, near Rochester, were investigating another brutal death of a goat. Investigators found a goat with its muzzle taped and front and rear legs bound on a road on March 28. A $1,000 reward is being offered in that case.
Buffalo police are continuing their investigation into the South Buffalo case and are asking for the public's help.
"It's still under investigation . . . if somebody saw something, please call the Police Department," said Michael J. DeGeorge, special assistant to Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson.
"At this point, it appears as it's a onetime thing. There's no history to say this is a long-term pattern," he said.