March 23, 2012 in Nation/World

Customs agents find fetuses in luggage

Juan O. Tamayo McClatchy

MIAMI – U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at Miami International Airport found two human fetuses in the luggage of two women returning home from Havana.

The fetuses were to be delivered to someone in Miami and used in one of the mixed Catholic and African religions widely practiced in Cuba, like Santeria, according to two persons knowledgeable with the case.

Miami-Dade Police Department spokesman Roy Rutland confirmed to the Miami Herald on Thursday that the two fetuses were found Jan. 30 in the luggage of two Cuban-American women – one in her 60s and the other in her 70s.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents X-rayed a sealed jar they carried and spotted one human fetus. A second one was found when the jar was opened, according to Rutland.

“The medical examiner made a determination that both of the fetuses were close to 20 weeks and both had been stillborn – they were not viable,” he added, making it clear that there was no foul play in the deaths of the fetuses.

The two women told U.S. authorities that they received the jar in Havana from a Santeria priest and were asked to deliver it to someone in Miami, an airline industry official said.

But they insisted that they did not know what was in the jar and were not charged with any crimes, Rutland noted.

Santeria rites usually involve the sacrifice of small animals such as chickens and goats and sometimes the use of old human bones stolen from cemeteries. Human fetuses are rarely if ever used, according to experts on Santeria.

Rutland said the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents who found the fetuses could not identify any crime committed by the women, and passed the case to the Miami-Dade homicide squad.

The police investigators presented the evidence and forensic reports to the States Attorney office, which made the decision to not pursue any state charges because the women had “no intent” to commit any crime, the spokesman added.

Rutland did not identify the women or the person in Miami who was supposed to receive the fetuses, citing privacy constraints.

Miami International Airport’s large amount of international traffic, especially with Latin America, has led to the discovery of many exotic or bizarre items in luggage and cargo, including archaeological objects, tropical food items and, in one case, a preserved Llama fetus.

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