Human Skulls Found in Shipment of Teddy Bears in Mexico City

A man was in custody Monday on charges of attempting to ship human remains to the U.S. for use in Santeria religious rituals after two "recently exhumed" human skulls were discovered inside teddy bears, Mexican authorities said.

The plush bears were uncovered June 7 in a package being inspected by X-ray at a shipping company near the Mexico City airport, the federal prosecutor's office said.

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Through a phone number on a label, federal prosecutors eventually tracked down Fidencio Aparicio Ramirez, a medicinal herb merchant at Mexico City's Sonora Market, authorities said.

Ramirez was arrested Sunday and admitted having acquired the skulls, which he said were in demand by U.S. practitioners of Santeria, according to the prosecutor's office.

Santeria, or Regla de Ocha, is a synthesis of Roman Catholicism and the Yoruba religion first brought to Cuba by West African slaves.

Prosecutors wouldn't say where in the U.S. the skulls were being shipped. Santeria is most prominently observed in Southern California and South Florida.

Ramirez was charged with crimes against public health in the form of marketing and attempting to export human remains. He was held in a men's detention facility in northern Mexico City, prosecutors said.

— M. Alex Johnson