Mexico City, April 2 (IANS/EFE) The seven members of a satanic cult arrested last week for allegedly sacrificing two 10-year-old boys and a 44-year-old woman to Mexico's Holy Death deity have been identified, an official said.
The group's leader was Silvia Meraz, one of the suspects arrested for the three killings in the town of Nacozari, Sonora state Attorney General's office spokesperson Jose Larrinaga in a statement.
The 44-year-old Meraz "convinced the rest of the group to offer human sacrifices to the Holy Death since it would bring them economic and health benefits, and it would give them protection", Larrinaga said.
Prosecutors opened an investigation after 10-year-old Jesus Octavio Martinez was reported missing by his family.
The other two victims were Cleotilde Romero Pacheco, a 44-year-old friend of Meraz who was murdered in December 2009, and Martin Rios Chaparro, a 10-year-old boy killed in July 2010.
A special state police unit determined that "the suspects deprived the minor of his life, sacrificing him in March of this year to the Holy Death cult", the AG's office spokesperson said.
The suspects confessed that Meraz persuaded six members of a family "to kill three people at different times, murdering an adult woman and two children", Larrinaga said.
Meraz was the instigator of the three killings and participated directly in two of the murders, Larrinaga said.
"Her preference was to cut the throats of the victims, arguing that the Holy Death preferred it that way and would tell them where there was money to steal, which would be part of the reward," the AG's office spokesperson said.
The other suspects - three men and three women - range in age from 20 to 83.
Investigators are trying to determine whether additional people were involved in the killings and if there are more victims.
The Holy Death cult, popular among drug traffickers and some other Mexican criminals, is a blend of Christianity, Indian traditions and folk beliefs that arose in the 1940s in poor Mexico City neighbourhoods and subsequently spread throughout the country.
Condemned by the Vatican, the cult is not recognized as a religious denomination by the Mexican government.
The Holy Death cult, which claims to have five million members around the world, has its principal church in Mexico City.
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