In Pasadena a folk religion altar was found Sunday in the backyard of a home. It was noticed, in passing, by police chasing a trespasser.
More than the statues, and evidence of a burnt offering, what grabbed their attention were several bones, some obviously from an animal, but others appeared human, including a skull.
"The religious aspects of the case is not our focus," according to Lieutenant Ed Calatayud, with the Pasadena Police Department. "It's the bones."
The coroner's office has confirmed that the bones and skull are human.
While the occupants of the home initially declined to comment, late Monday afternoon, a relative of the residents who said his name was Jose, said his sister's family found the bones on the Internet.
He said they found them on ebay, and said he doesn't know if they are real or not.
A quick search on ebay Monday, found pages of offerings, all marked for medical use. One skull was selling for $710.
Jose said his sister practices Palo Mayombe, an offshoot of Santeria.
But while studying images of the altar, an expert on Latin,American folk religions saw different symbolism.
"What caught my eye was that the backyard altar obviously was an altar primarily to 'Santa Muerte' known as 'Saint Death' in English, the Mexican folk saint," according to Professor Andrew Chesnut, of Virginia Commonwealth University:
Despite condemnation by the Catholic Church, the cult of Santa Muerte has grown tremendously in the past decade, according to Professor Chesnut. Bones are sometimes included on altars.
"The bones themselves are often believed to have special, special powers," according to Professor Chesnut.
Authorities can't say if there's a crime in Pasadena, and certainly no one has been charged, but the coroner wants to take a closer look at those bones to determine their origin.