Polk County men steal skulls from veterans’ graves for ‘religious rituals’, detectives say

Two people from Polk County are accused of stealing the remains of four veterans, detectives said, and bringing them to a “religious shrine” inside a house in Lake Wales where human skulls were found and other bones were found.

The suspects have been identified as Brian Montalvo Tolentino, 43, of Davenport, and Juan Burgos Lopez, 39, of Lake Wales. According to a press release, the suspects used the remains in religious rituals inside the house on Timberlane Road in Lake Wales.

The remains of the veterans were removed from Edgewood Cemetery, located in Mount Dora, on December 6.

“I think this is all disturbing, just disturbing,” said Tonya Booth, who found the graves disturbed last month while walking with her daughter.

Lake County detectives said they were able to identify Tolentino from DNA samples on cigars left at the crime scene. On January 6, they contacted the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, whose detectives obtained a search warrant for oral swabs from Tolentino.

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Next, Lake County detectives questioned Tolentino, who confessed to going to the cemetery with Lopez. Officials said Tolentino told them Lopez used a crowbar to open chests and remove the deceased’s heads.

In total, they removed four heads from the four graves and brought them to a shed at Lopez’s house in Lake Wales for “religious practices“.

After Polk County detectives obtained a search warrant for Lopez’s home on Thursday evening, they said they found seven skulls, a hand, a partial arm and other large bones in what appeared to be a “sanctuary religious”.

“They said that the spirit is much stronger in a hero than in a normal person. Moreover, when you have the skull of a hero, the spirit is not only stronger, it can protect you from harm. wrong, ”Sheriff Grady Judd said, explaining why the duo allegedly targeted the graves of veterans. “They said the spirits led them to the cemetery.”

They said two skulls are fake, and detectives are working to identify the fifth.

Both were arrested on Lake County arrest warrants and face multiple charges, including disturbing the contents of a grave and abusing a dead body.

“This is all really weird,” Lake County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson John Herrell said. “This is probably one of the strangest cases we’ve ever seen here in Lake County.”

“It’s good that families are getting justice. They deserve it,” added Tonya Booth’s daughter Emma.

“It tears my heart to think that the graves of these veterans, these heroes, were disturbed in order to create the Palo Shrine,” Judd agreed.

Photos shared by Polk MPs on Friday.

Photo shared by Polk MPs on Friday.

Photos shared by Polk MPs on Friday.

Ruth R. Culp