76ºF

Mercury on bones from apparent Santeria ritual closes ME's office

Body found at Ray Wayside Park in Silver Springs

Ray Wayside Park (Ocala Boat Basin). File photo.
Ray Wayside Park (Ocala Boat Basin). File photo.

LEESBURG, Fla. – A Central Florida medical examiner's office has been shut down temporarily after mercury was discovered on human bones.

The Daily Commercial reported that the bones arrived at the Leesburg office Tuesday.

Chief forensic investigator Brett Harding said he noticed something shiny on the bones and recognized what the substance was. Officials alerted the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which ordered the shutdown.

Officials said the bones had been found Sunday at Ray Wayside Park in Silver Springs. They apparently had been part of a Santeria ritual, which commonly uses mercury.

Santeria, a Spanish word the means "worship of the saints," is a religion of Caribbean origin that developed in the Spanish Empire. Customs include animal sacrifice and dance.

Investigators were trying to determine who left the bones at the park.

High mercury exposure results in permanent nervous system and kidney damage. Harding said he hopes the office will be cleaned and reopened within a day.