Popular culture and entertainment have taken a lot of the fear out of witchcraft these days. Movies, television shows, and books often portray magic and witchcraft as fun, sexy, or silly. But modern-day witches and their victims can be as dangerous today as they were when they were originally featured in fairy tales and ghost stories.
It seems as if few people believe in real witches anymore, but people who claim to be witches are out there, and their intentions aren't always benign. Some of these self-proclaimed witches have made headlines for committing all-too-real crimes. The crimes committed by witches in real life (as well as those who claim to have been possessed or hexed by witches) are not as cinematic, sexy, or glamorous as witchcraft in the movies, but they are definitely as scary.
Angela Sanford was charged for the 2010 murder of Joel Leyva, whom she lured to the Sandia Foothills Open Space Park in New Mexico. Sanford told Leyva to take off his clothes at the park, and after partially undressing, she straddled him before stabbing him over a dozen times. Leyva suffered more than a dozen stab wounds in the head and neck, as well as many in the stomach, from a dagger intended to be used in Wiccan rituals.
Wiccans distanced themselves from her actions, saying that the dagger, called an athame, is intended to be used as a ceremonial, symbolic item in nonviolent rituals.
While going through Sanford's cell phone, police found Leyva's number stored as "Sacrifice."
Lawrence Harris of Iowa was sentenced to life in prison for the murders of his stepdaughters, Kendra and Alysha Suing. The two girls were found stabbed and strangled inside their home, and Harris claims that the girls died when he cast a spell to protect their brother. According to him, the spell reversed itself, which led to their deaths.
Alysha Suing's blood was discovered on Harris's hands and body as well as on a long knife that Harris referred to as his "ritual knife." The knife was found placed inside his spell notebook. Harris's attorneys tried to prove insanity on his part, but the jurors found Harris guilty of two counts of first-degree murder.
Wayne Hartung Sr. of Pensacola, FL, was arrested for the murders of three of his family members in 2015. Voncile Smith and his two half brothers, Richard and John, were found dead during a welfare check at their home. Authorities state that all three bodies had slit throats and had been badly beaten with hammers.
Family members state that Hartung dabbled in the practice of witchcraft. Authorities claim that the evidence they gathered leads them to believe that witchcraft was involved in the ritualistic deaths. The triple homicide also occurred near the night of a blue moon, which carries important symbolic significance in witchcraft, and only occurs once every three years.
Irenia Cotner, Jenny Wolfe, and Oscar Eck of Illinois were all charged in the stabbing death of Joshua Bennett in 2005. They were also charged, alongside Misty Gangloff, with the conspiracy to murder Lindsey Kasinger. According to testimony, the conspiracy to murder the pregnant 16-year-old Kasinger was intended to save them all from a hex - a hex that Cotner convinced them they were under.
Eck admits to "messing with witchcraft" for over a year after developing an interest in it from vampire and Harry Potter movies. Gangloff denied an interest in witchcraft, but admitted to owning books on the topic and pushing pins through a doll many times a week in order to "relieve pressure."
The group allegedly participated in a seance where they were told to murder Kasinger and her unborn child:
Three days before the Aug. 23, 2005, slaying of Bennett, Eck said he participated in a seance with Cotner and David Lindner, a fourth suspect who died on Feb. 28, 2006, of gunshot wounds he received during the alleged home invasion that resulted in Bennett’s death. He said he was led to believe that his own family and friends would die if Kasinger and her baby lived.
Eck said Cotner interpreted the flickering of candles during the seance. She said Kasinger and the baby must die and anyone else in the house must be hurt, Eck testified.