Two girls, ages 11 and 12, were arrested in Bartow, Florida, on Tuesday in a foiled plot to murder several of their classmates and drink their blood. (Rolling Stone has chosen to not name the individuals, due to their age.)
Police say the girls were caught with several blades — including a butcher knife, a paring knife, scissors and a pizza cutter — as well as a goblet. They told investigators they planned to kill as many students as possible, and that they are practicing Satanists.
Satanism was wrongfully thought to be a factor in several murder and abuse cases during the so-called “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s and ‘90s. The hysteria has mostly quieted, but once in a while another case pops up where Satanism is used either by perpetrators as a justification for violence, or by law enforcement and media as an explanation. Rolling Stone spoke with the head of one of the largest Satanic organizations in the country about whether the religion might actually have played a part in this case.
“I’m sure it will be established that these girls held no active role in any established form of religious Satanism, the major sects of which today are non-theistic, humanistic, and anti-superstitious,” Lucien Greaves, spokesperson and co-founder of the Satanic Temple says. “Their distorted perspective of what Satanism is, and their apparent supernatural belief in what Satan wants, is almost certainly the product of a Christian upbringing, possibly an attempt at the tired ‘the devil made us do it’ defense.”
Bartow Police Chief Joe Hall reported in a press conference that the girls told authorities they were “Satan worshipers,” and that they suggested “they were willing to drink blood and possibly eat flesh.” He said that one of the girls warned another student on Monday not to come to a middle school building the next day, because “something bad was going to happen.” That student warned a teacher, who told the principal. Police officers were stationed at the school on Tuesday in response to the possible threat. When the girl who’d issued the warning was reported absent from class — even though her mother said she’d been dropped off at school that morning — the principal ordered a search of the school, and the two girls were found in a bathroom. After being asked to empty their pockets in the principal’s office and confessing to their plan, the girls were questioned by police.
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“Both juveniles stated to detectives that they had been planning an attack on other students over the past couple of days” Hall said. “They noted that they wanted to kill at least 15 people and were waiting in the bathroom to find smaller kids that they could overpower to be their victims.”
Nobody was hurt, since the girls were caught before they had a chance to act out their plan. Both girls were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder and possession of a weapon on school property, and are currently in custody.
At the home of one of the girls, investigators found a hand-drawn map of the middle school with the notation “go to kill in bathroom.” Investigators also found conversations about their plot on the girls’ cellphones, revealing that they planned to “leave body parts at the entrance” and then kill themselves. During the last conversation, one girl messaged the other “Today is health lessons. Thank Satan, we are doing this in a bit.”
“Disturbed people claiming the justification of religion are daily committing depraved acts worldwide, but only when Satanism is invoked do we so often witness an uncritical acceptance of the notion that the religious perspective bears the responsibility for the individual’s action,” Greaves says. “Perhaps ironically, if there were less dramatically false representations of Satanism in popular culture, and more accurate representations expressing what we truly believe and what we practice, I believe we’d see incidents like this, rare as they are, disappear completely as it became generally recognized, by consumers of news and perpetrators of crime alike, that Satanism provides no justification whatever for heinous crimes.”