A man has been accused of murdering his mother and two younger half-brothers in a ritualistic killing that’s been referred to as “witchcraft.” The deaths of Voncile Smith, 77, John William Smith, 49, and, Richard Thomas Smith, 47, occurred in Pensacola, Florida, in July 2015. On October 27, Donald Hartung, 58, was arrested by sheriff’s deputies in Escambia County.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Sheriff Had Earlier Confirmed ‘Witchcraft’ as a Motive
According to online records, Hartung has been accused of First Degree Premeditated Murder. He was taken into custody in Bay Minette, Alabama. The delay in the arrest of Hartung was related to the large amounts of DNA evidence that had to be process, reports the Pensacola Journal.
At a news conference on August 4, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan told the media:
It’s witchcraft. I’ll say that right now. There are different factions of that. While it doesn’t bother me to release it being their being, most assuredly, you do not want to want to defame or demean any particular practices.
One of the great things about our country you can believe in pretty anything you want to believe in. That doesn’t indicate that one practitioner … I’ll use a family member of mine for an example.
I have family members who are Pentecostal. They don’t strychnine and handle poisonous snakes, but there are sects in the Pentecostal faith that do. You can’t say all Pentecostals do this or all Pentecostals don’t do that. At this juncture until such time as we garner more evidence and this case progresses, then we’ll be fully preparing at that time to release that information.
Earlier, on August 4, Morgan had said “Initial research has led us to believe it was a ritualistic killing.”
2. The Smith Family Were Beaten With a Hammer & Had Their Throats Slit
All of the victims were killed in the same manner, beaten with a hammer and had their throats slit. Richard Thomas Smith was also shot in the head. The Pensacola News Journal reports that Richard Smith was also shot in the head. He was an employee of the Department of Homeland Security. Officers went to the home when he didn’t show up for work.
3. Cops Had a Person of Interest, But No Arrests Were Made Until Now
The Smiths have been described as “reclusive.” There were no signs of forced entry to their home. The Pensacola News Journal reports that authorities have contacted a person of interest but no arrests have been made. The sheriff’s office added that the person of interest is also a witchcraft practitioner.
4. Wicca Witchcraft Is Described as ‘Peaceful & Harmonious’
WFLA, and other media organizations in Florida have linked the killing to Wicca witchcraft. Wicca is a more modern form of pagan witchcraft. It was first introduced in 1954 by former British government worker Gerald Gardner. According to Wicca.com, the craft described as:
Contrary to what those who choose to persecute or lie about us wish to believe, Wicca is a very peaceful, harmonious and balanced way of life which promotes oneness with the divine and all which exists.
5. Back in December 2014, a Maryland Woman Killed Her ‘Witch Roommate’
In December 2014, a woman in Rockville, Maryland, brutally murdered her roommate, according to police. Rita Sanders-Campfield, 67, was accused of stabbing her elderly room mate, Chong Park, to death all because Campfield believed Park was a practicing witch.