Five-year-old girl tied down and burned to rid her of 'demon' in 'voodoo' ritual, police say
A five year-old girl has been left permanently disfigured after being tied down and burned as part of a voodoo ritual in the US state of Massachusetts, police said.
Sisters Peggy LaBossiere, 51, and Rachel Hilaire, 40, allegedly held down the girl as part of a ritual designed to rid her of a demon they believed was causing her to misbehave, authorities said.
The women also threatened to cut off the head of the unnamed girl's 8-year-old brother with a machete, police added.The boy said his sister was tied down on at least two occasions while the sisters blew fire over her face and cut her on the arm and in the collar area with a needle-like object, drawing blood, according to police.
The girl said the women also poured a substance over her eyes that stung.
The pair from East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, denied injuring the girl and threatening the boy, the Brockton Enterprise reported.
They pleaded not guilty to mayhem, assault and other charges. A public defender for the women declined to comment.Police said the girl's mother is a hair stylist of Haitian descent who has Ms LaBossiere as a client and alleged she requested the ritual. She has not been charged but is reportedly receiving mental health treatment.
The sisters will be back in Brockton Superior Court on Wednesday for a hearing to determine whether they can be released on bail.
The sisters told police that they have performed "cleansing baths" for family and friends in the past, something that involves chanting prayers, rubbing frankincense and eucalyptus oils and sea salt on their bodies, and burning myrrh, the newspaper reported.Children sometimes get burned as spirits leave the body, they said.
The girl suffered a third-degree burn across her face that will leave her permanently disfigured, police said. She was treated at a hospital and taken into custody by state welfare authorities, along with her brother, who described to police what happened at the sisters' house over multiple days.
Voodoo refers to religious practices developed centuries ago by enslaved Africans in the Caribbean, primarily in Haiti, where the practices are known as "vodou".
Despite its reputation most practitioners say the religion is non violent and misunderstood. They say the modern perception of voodoo comes from the demonisation of the practice by black Haitians and in the late 19th century and early 20th century by the white, Christian United States as it tried to increase its influence of the island.