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Palo in Today's NY Post

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  • thewordsaves
    May 3, 2004 -- Five generations of Roseanne Perna s family are interred at a stately mausoleum, but the New Jersey woman doubts that any of them are resting in
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2004
      May 3, 2004 -- Five generations of Roseanne Perna's family are
      interred at a stately mausoleum, but the New Jersey woman doubts
      that any of them are resting in peace.
      Others left to mourn and reflect don't have much comfort either -
      ever since a grave-robber stole Perna's father right out of his
      crypt in the Newark cemetery.

      Five years have passed since that awful day, but subsequent trials
      and investigations have brought the searing pain back to life.

      "It's a very disturbing thing to know this can happen," Perna
      said. "I believe in an afterlife, but this is very upsetting."

      Perna's comments came as a Newark jury began deliberating the fate
      of a Cuban-immigrant woman accused of leading a grave-robbing gang
      that used stolen skulls and bones in religious ceremonies.

      Miriam Mirabal, 61, is a high priestess in the Palo Mayombe
      religion, and she directed followers to pillage human remains for
      use in ceremonies to call down spirits of the dead, prosecutor Dean
      Maglione has told the jury.

      Maglione said at least 10 graves were robbed from Newark-area
      cemeteries over the last seven years before cops busted the ring
      with a few key arrests. The Mirabal trial is the second of three
      court cases related to the thefts. Officials said there have been no
      break-ins since the arrests.

      "They'll never be smashed," Maglione said of the ring. "They're just
      lying low. Where they're getting their remains from now, I don't

      The body of Leonard Perna was stolen from Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in
      1999 from a crypt that has been in the Perna family for more than 80
      years. Perna died of stomach cancer in 1986, said Rosanne Perna.

      "When you get a phone call like that about the body being stolen, it
      brings all that grief back," Perna said.

      Mirabal was arrested in connection with similar thefts after two
      admitted grave-robbers fingered her as the ringleader. She was the
      last of seven Palo worshippers arrested in connection with thefts of
      human remains from above-ground crypts at Mount Pleasant and Holy
      Sepulchre cemeteries.

      Officials said she is accused of ordering her followers to steal the
      remains of Richard and Emily Jenkinson from Mount Pleasant Cemetery
      on Dec. 17, 2001, and those of Joseph Rovi from Holy Sepulchre
      Cemetery on Jan. 23, 2002.

      Emily Jenkinson was buried in 1922 after dying at age 67, and her
      husband was interred there later after dying at age 77. Rovi was
      buried in 1969.

      Mirabal's lawyer, Frank Guzman, said his client is innocent, and
      that all the evidence is circumstantial. "There is nothing directly
      linked to Miriam Mirabal," Guzman said. "Just inferences."

      While the trial itself, known locally as "the bones case," features
      little drama, it has easily become distinguished for its unusual

      Amid the legal pads, pencils and highlighters that littered the
      table shared by defense and prosecuting attorneys was a clear
      plastic bag that caused more than one moment of discomfort.

      Inside was a human skull, a piece of evidence that each lawyer held
      aloft to make a salient point.

      Across the courtroom was a plain brown box marked with a "biohazard"
      sticker. Inside was a cauldron used, according to prosecutors, to
      boil the stolen bones.

      Officials said the Palo Mayombe cult is a derivative of a West
      African religion that slaves took to Cuba in the 19th century.
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