Venezuela Pastor and Family Decapitated in Satanic Ritual

Caracas, Venezuela - This case of brutal crime is macabre even by the often bizarre standards of Venezuela's particularly vicious brand of violence.

An Evangelist preacher, his wife and their four-year-old daughter were all found dead inside their home at San José de Guanipa in El Trigrito, an oil town in Anzoátegui state, east-central Venezuela, last Friday.

Reports reaching Caracas say they'd all been decapitated.

Jean Carlos Salazar, 30, his wife, Ingrid Higuera, 33, and their little girl Karla, had lived in the house for over a year. He was the pastor at the nearby World Center of Peace and had come to be well-known in the district.

Investigators are working on a theory that the multiple slaying was carried out by people from some sort of satanic cult. They say the inside walls of the house had been painted with slogans suggesting such a connection.

However, the murderers evidently thought twice about leaving behind this evidence and, the grim deed done, decided to set the house on fire. It was the consequent blaze that alerted neighbors that something was amiss at around 3.30 in the morning.

They noticed that the door was open but couldn't hear anybody inside responding to their shouts of alarm. So they called the fire brigade which promptly turned up and put out the fire. Then the gruesome discovery was made.

Given the peculiarities of the case, the scientific and investigative police, Cicpc, sent a squad of detectives from Caracas to help with the investigation. The key questions were not only who carried out the murders, but why.

Given that there were no signs of the front door of the house having been forced open, there's a suspicion Salazar may have known the killers, and even let them in. One curious detail is that, inside the house, the doors to the rooms where the victims were found were locked.

Asked about the case, the local chief of detectives, Commissioner Miguel Navas, replied with a classic understatement worthy of an old-fashioned English copper. The police, he said, were confronted with "an atypical triple crime."