Man Murdered Allegedy During Wiccan Celebration of Spring

Police say Angela Sanford stabbed man with Wiccan dagger.

March 24, 2010, 12:18 PM

March 24, 2010— -- A woman who claims she was going to perform a Wiccan celebration of spring is accused of using a ritualistic dagger to kill a man she invited to the ceremony.

The victim, Joel Leyva, was found with 13 stab wounds. The suspect, Angela Sanford, was found by police at the murder scene in her underwear. Sanford, 30, appeared in an Albuquerque, N.M., court today and pleaded not guiltyy.

"Sanford is currently facing a single count of murder and she's being held on $500,000 bond," Pat Davis of the Albuquerque District Attorney's office said today to ABC News.

According to Sanford's statement to police, she had met Leyva, 52, a few days prior to the Monday attack. She invited him to join her because she was "going up to the mountains to celebrate Beltane," the police statement said.

Beltane is a celebration of spring typically observed at the end of April or begining of May by followers of Wicca, a pagan religion associated with witchcraft.

Sanford told police she and Leyva met on a hiking trail where they shared beers and tequila. According to the statement, the suspect claimed that Leyva then tied her arms, made "inappropriate sexual gestures," and removed the dagger from her pants.

"Angela advised the dagger was to be used as part of her Wicca ritual. Angela stated she was in fear that Leyva was going to rape her," the report states.

According to the statement, Sanford said to keep from being raped, she decided to let Leyva think she wanted to "seduce him," the report stated. After slipping her arms free of the ropes, she allegedly laid Leyva on his back. Sanford removed her clothing except her underwear and knelt on the ground over him, and used her dagger to stab Leyva "three times in the stomach area," the report says.

Inconsistencies in Sanford's Statement

After the stabbing, Sanford reportedly fled the area and eventually asked a hiker to use a cell phone to call police.

Inconsistencies in Sanford's story quickly emerged, police said.

Leyva was actually stabbed 11 to 13 times in the head and torso, police said, and that they don't believe Sanford's story of the attempted rape.

A witness told police he saw Sanford initially hiding behind some boulders, and when they made eye contact she emerged dressed in only her underwear and advised the man she was just raped, the police report said.

It's also noted in the report that a runner who assisted Sanford told police said that she noticed Sanford's clothes were "neatly folded" near Leyva's body.

"None of the witnesses saw Angela running away from the scene. None of the witnesses heard anyone calling out for help," the police report says.

Albuquerque Police Department spokeswoman Nadine Hamby said Sanford's claims to Wicca beliefs have not influenced the investigation. "A homicide is a homicide," she told ABC News.

Hamby also said, "The Wiccan community has come out on local media outlets stating they do no such things like kill anything or anyone."

On what police say is Sanford's Myspace page, she speaks about her practice of Wicca, and in a posting last April wrote ominously, "It's commonly believed that serial killers cannot stop, because their compulsion is so strong that they're literally addicted to murder."

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