- Associated Press - Saturday, September 10, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - For months after the early morning raid, the legal fate of Ender Darling remained as murky as a moonless night.

The self-styled witch fled New Orleans in the wake of a controversy over collecting human bones and, in a defiant interview, accused law enforcement of overreacting to a Facebook post that had advertised the usefulness of “leftover” human remains.

Darling, 25, was not taken into custody in January, even after authorities found nearly a dozen bones and four teeth at a Mid-City residence - specimens the witch had collected from Holt Cemetery to use in creating spells.

Darling, whose given name is Devon Marie Machuca, denied wrongdoing and claimed the state Attorney General’s Office had wasted its time and taxpayer dollars on a literal witch hunt.

Recent court filings, however, suggest that state investigators, before making an arrest, had been awaiting the results of a bio-archaeological analysis - a test that, according to the Attorney General’s Office, confirmed the remains in question were, in fact, human.

Darling was quietly arrested in Florida earlier this summer and has been jailed in New Orleans for more than a month on counts of trafficking in human parts and burglary of a cemetery.

The witch, who does not identify as a man or woman, is scheduled to appear in court later this month to answer to the charges.

A person who answered Darling’s cellphone Wednesday refused to comment and hung up on a reporter.

Darling’s bizarre tale brought legislative attention this year to the phenomenon of grave robbing - a crime that is hardly unique to New Orleans and its storied cemeteries.

Lawmakers, in passing the Louisiana Human Remains Protection and Control Act, declared that previous state statutes failed to “adequately protect against the illicit trade in human remains” and that “such trade needs to be stemmed in order to minimize looting and desecration of cemeteries.”

Darling first drew the attention of law enforcement in December after posting on Facebook about the large number of bones visible at a “poor man’s graveyard,” a reference to Holt Cemetery, the historic potter’s field on City Park Avenue.

“Most graveyards around here are full of above ground graves because we live in a fishbowl,” Darling wrote in the Facebook post, which was later deleted. “But there happens to be a graveyard where it’s all in-ground graves. For those of us who are too poor to afford above ground burial.”

Darling described the cemetery as a reliable source of “femurs, teeth, jaws (and) skull caps,” especially after a heavy rain. “This is where I go to find my human bones for curse work and general spells that require bone,” Darling wrote in the Facebook post. “I find human bones are easier (to) work with for me rather than animal bone. I can relate and work with the energy they carry if that makes any sense.”

In the post, Darling asked whether anyone was interested in buying leftover remains, or “basically cover shipping (costs) to where ever you happen to be.”

State investigators monitored Darling’s South Solomon Street residence for several days and eventually searched the premises, finding bones and teeth in a bowl on an altar.

An arrest warrant issued in July stated that Darling, in an interview with law enforcement, denied disinterring any remains but acknowledged collecting bones that had surfaced after rainstorms. Darling also denied selling any remains, the warrant said, insisting “their inherent power is all that she needs for her spells and other occult work.”

“Machuca maintained that she has not looted remains from any other cemetery in Louisiana but implied that she looted remains from one or more cemeteries in other states,” the warrant said, “specifically identifying Maryland.”

Darling was taken into custody July 15 in Tampa, Florida, and was booked into the Orleans Justice Center about two weeks later.

An Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman said Darling was being held Wednesday in lieu of $8,500 bail.

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Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, https://www.neworleansadvocate.com

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