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'Wiccan Ritual Killing' Leaves Family of Three Dead in Pensacola: Police

A triple homicide in Florida is suspected to be a "Wiccan ritual killing" related to the "blue" moon, police said Tuesday.

The three victims, all from the same family, were found after a welfare check on Friday, July 31, said Escambia County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Andrew Hobbes.

"It appears that this might be connected to some type of Wiccan ritual killing and possibly tied to the blue moon," Hobbes told NBC News.

A "blue" moon is what it's called when there are two full moons in the same calendar month.

Voncile Smith, 77, and her two sons, Richard, 49, and John, 47, were discovered when one of the son's employers realized he hadn't shown up for work.

Voncile and John both died of blunt force trauma and had their throats cut, police said. Richard was shot in the ear, "as he came into the house," and had his throat cut, Hobbes said. Police believe a claw hammer was used to commit the murders, Hobbes said.

No evidence of a forcible entry was found and, while police have spoken with a person of interest in the case, no arrests have been made, Hobbes said.

When asked how the evidence suggests these are ritualistic or Wiccan killings Sgt. Hobbes said, "The injuries to the victims, the positions of the bodies and also the person of interest right now is also a practitioner."

Wicca is a religion that claims to draw on the pre-Christian traditions of Western Europe, and while most practitioners engage in some form of magical practice and nature worship, they may believe in a variety of deities. The religion does not encourage the practice of ritual killings.

The number of Americans who identify as Wiccan has risen from about 8,000 in 1990 to 342,000 in 2008, according to American Religious Identification Survey data. The ranks of prominent American Wiccans include Margot Adler, a well-known National Public Radio journalist who died in 2014.

According to Hobbes, Richard Smith worked for Homeland Security and a supervisor contacted the sheriff's office, who dispatched a unit to check the home at 4605 Deerfield Drive in Pensacola.

Authorities believe the trio was killed sometime after 7:00 p.m ET, on the previous Tuesday, three days earlier.

Police are continuing their investigation.

"It's frightening to think about. Especially when you have small children," neighbor Ken Lester said, according to affiliate WECT. "To find out that it was this weird, satanic cult, witchcraft whatever, is just really unsettling."