updated 4/13/2006 3:16:52 PM ET 2006-04-13T19:16:52

A Haitian woman who was found with a human skull in her luggage pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to illegally storing human remains.

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Myrlene Severe, 30, a permanent U.S. resident, had originally been charged with smuggling a human head into the United States without proper documentation, failure to declare the head and transporting hazardous material in air commerce.

Severe could have faced up to 15 years in jail, but under a plea deal that downgraded those charges to a misdemeanor charge of improper storage of human remains, she now faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail.

"She is glad that part of it is over," Kenneth Hassett, Severe's attorney, told The Miami Herald. "She is anxiously awaiting the sentencing for closure. We are cautiously optimistic as to the result."

The human skull with teeth, hair and skin was found in Severe's checked luggage when she arrived at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in February from Cap Haitien, Haiti. Severe told authorities she had obtained the package from a man in Haiti to ward off evil spirits, as part of her voodoo beliefs.

Severe's sentencing is scheduled July 28.

Hassett has said that Severe was less likely to face deportation by pleading guilty to the misdemeanor charge.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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