Four dead chickens were found at one of the entrances to the Park City Cemetery Monday morning, but the Park City Police Department said it does not appear that they were left there by followers of a religion called Santeria.
Rick Ryan, a police captain, said the authorities were notified of the discovery at 8:30 a.m. A woman who was cutting through the cemetery on her way home initially reported the find to an employee of the Park City Water Department. She saw two paper bags close to the east entrance of the Kearns Boulevard cemetery. The Water Department staffer then contacted the police.
Ryan said a police officer found two dead chickens in each of the bags. Corn and eight pennies fell out of one of the bags while the officer was investigating, Ryan said. The police took photos of the chickens, which still had their feathers, and the location where they were found before the dead animals were given to the Streets Department for disposal, Ryan said.
If the person who left them there is found, it is unlikely they would face criminal charges more serious than littering, Ryan said.
Ryan said there has not been a similar case recently. It was not clear to the police whether the person who left them there meant to use the chickens as some sort of message.
In late 2010 and early 2011, there was a series of gruesome finds of dead animals, including some that had been decapitated. Upward of 10 dead chickens and a dead goat were found at that time. An expert in ritual crimes indicated then that the dead animals, some found with pieces of cloth tied to them, were a telltale sign of Santeria adherents.
Santeria blends ancient African religion with Catholicism. It was brought to the New World during the slave trade. Santeria followers sacrifice animals as part of their ceremonies, something that is protected by the constitutional right to religious freedom.
Ryan said the Monday case does not resemble the earlier ones that the police attributed to Santeria followers. He said the chickens found on Monday were not decapitated and did not have pieces of cloth tied to them.
"It does not appear to be consistent with Santeria practices," Ryan said.