Police: Death at voodoo cleansing

July 13, 2009 3:37:17 PM PDT
The mother of a transgendered college student found dead after a voodoo ceremony gone bad said she was very worried about her child.Lucille Hamilton, 20, of Little Rock, Arkansas travelled to a Gloucester Township home to participate in a religious cleansing ceremony.

The home, on the 400 block of Loch Lomond Road, is owned by a man who claims to be a Haitian Voodoo priest.

Lucie, as her mom called her, worked two jobs and overtime to raise the plane fare and $1500 it cost attend the ritual over the weekend.

The ceremony was conducted by voodoo priest Hector Salva.

Action News spoke with Hamilton's mother, Karen Thompson, by phone.

"I was just afraid for her being out there, so far away from me that I couldn't help her," Thompson said. "She's my only child."

Police say seven people, from as far away as the Netherlands, participated in the ceremony Saturday night and went to sleep.

Hamilton was found dead Sunday morning. The cause of death is pending the result of toxicology tests.

There was no answer at the Gloucester Township house on Monday. Friends and family say Lucie Hamilton loved animals and was interested in various religions, but the cash only cleansing ritual raised red flags.

"She was not allowed to take a cell [phone], a laptop or have any type of communication with her family while she was gone," said family friend Stephanie Anderson.

Neighbor Teahna Burch saw the group chanting the backyard next door Friday night.

"I don't think it was English. I couldn't really make out much of it, but it was a little weird because I've never seen anything like that," Burch said.

Some neighbors report strange smells and strange sounds coming from the home on Loch Lomond Drive.

"Rattles, chants, like all different stuff. You could smell the incense through the walls," said neighbor Tina Ritz.

After a fire next door to the voodoo priest's home two years ago, neighbors say there was disturbing findings.

"Kids found dead chicken legs back there, after the fire, chicken heads. It's crazy," said neighbor Malisa Crane.

Lucie Hamilton's sudden death is not being labeled as suspicious.

After her body was discovered, the six others involved in the cleansing ritual and the voodoo priest were checked out at the hospital.

Police will be looking at test results to see if Hamilton or anyone else involved had any drugs in their system, and if so, whether that had anything to do with her death.

Family members also say Hamilton is transgendered and used to be known as David. However, Hamilton never underwent a sex change operation.

An autopsy will be performed this week.

No charges have yet been filed.

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