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Judge: Sterling woman can keep live chickens after taking sacrifice course

Mercy Carrion
A Sterling woman accused of sacrificing up to 15 chickens a week for religious purposes will still be legally allowed to own live poultry-- as long as she completes a course in how to humanely sacrifice animals.

As first reported by the Times-Mirror, Mercy Carrion was arrested May 5 for three counts of cruelty to animals. Loudoun County Animal Services officers found two decapitated roosters stuffed into a filing cabinet and a live rooster in a cardboard beer box saturated in feces and urine with out food or water. A judge in Loudoun County General District Court today found Carrion guilty of all charges but chose not to prevent her from owning more animals in order to protect her freedom to exercise her religion, Santeria.

LCAS officers also found blood splatter on the walls of her home, a club with a metal shield covered in blood and feathers, a knife covered in blood, religious idols, animal heads and parts skewered on sticks in a vase, among other evidence, according to a search warrant.

Officers first searched Carrion's home in the 100 block of Sherwood Court in Sterling after an informant said they saw her “run around the house, slamming the chickens to the wall, bludgeon them to death with a club, bury the chickens alive, burn the chickens alive and cut them from the top of the neck, down the center of the body, while still alive,” according to the search warrant.

LCAS seized the live rooster found in Carrion's home after they executed a search warrant. Carrion appealed the seizure of the rooster in Loudoun County Circuit Court on July 27. Judge Jeanette A. Irby denied the appeal after hearing evidence the rooster was kept in unsuitable conditions.

Commonwealth's Attorney M. Alexandra Hazel argued in General District Court today Carrion was on trial not for sacrificing the roosters, but for the inhumane way she kept them and the cruel way in which she killed them.

LCAS officer Patrick Breslin testified he first found the three roosters stacked in beer boxes unable to stand up or move around on April 25. He said the backyard of Carrion's townhouse only had a 4-by-4-foot dirt area. Hazel argued this is not enough space to keep poultry as required by law.

Breslin said there was no sign of chicken feed, corn or any proper chicken enclosures.

LCAS Deputy Chief Erin Peterson testified she asked Carrion how long it took the roosters to die after she began decapitating them. Carrion told her it took between three and five minutes for each rooster to die. Hazel told the court the law requires quick and immediate death when animals are euthanized.

Dr. Mike Gast of Blue Ridge Veterinary Services, who performed necropsies of the dead roosters and an examination of the live rooster for LCAS, testified the birds were extremely emaciated. He said the rooster's crops, or the part of the esophagus where the initial stages of digestion occur, was completely empty, meaning they hadn't been fed anytime recently before the exams. Gast also testified the roosters' muscles were atrophied like they weren't able to move around for a number of days.

Public Defender Allysa Woods argued any code violations Carrion may have committed do not trump her First Amendment rights to freely practice her religion.

Gro Mambo Danthoula Novanyon Idizol, a high priestess and the executive board secretary of the National African Religion Congress (NARC), testified Carrion is a member of her organization. She said Carrion underwent an extensive initiation process to become a high priestess in Santeria, a pantheistic Afro-Hispanic religion that incorporates elements of Catholicism.

Idizol said Santeria priestesses are required to make ritual animal sacrifices by “divine forces.” Priestesses service others through divination and divine forces tell them what needs to be done to serve the individual, she said.

Idizol said the entire process of getting the animals, keeping and caring for them, killing them and disposing of them is sacred. Priestesses must care for the animals humanely, pray for them, bathe them in herbs before killing them and dispose of their bodies ritualistically.

Carrion testified through a translator she “feeds the saints” with the blood of sacrificed animals.

“Elders in the church instructed me to sacrifice three roosters,” she said. “It was written I was to do this.”

Carrion said the roosters were in the same emaciated condition when she bought them two or three days before her arrest. She said she fed the roosters corn and gave them water. She placed the roosters in beer boxes because they were young and tried to fight each other when not separated, Carrion testified.

Carrion said she was in the middle of sacrificing the three roosters the night LCAS searched her home. The decapitated roosters were stuffed into a file cabinet once Carrion heard officers knock on her door. She said she was scared and didn't know what to do other than try to hide the roosters' bodies.

Judge Deborah C. Welsh found Carrion guilty of all three counts of animal cruelty.

“I do not believe the state statutes in question violate your free exercise of religion,” said Welsh. “They don't in any way prevent you from sacrificing animals.”

Welsh said there was no evidence provided that Carrion attempted to numb the animals before decapitating them, as required by her own religion. The evidence also shows the way Carrion kept the roosters before killing them was cruel, said Welsh.

Hazel asked Welsh to consider preventing Carrion from owning live poultry in the future. Woods argued the court would be preventing Carrion from practicing her religion if she couldn't own more roosters.

Welsh made the decision to allow Carrion to own animals again as soon as she completes a week-long course in how to humanely sacrifice animals from the NARC and shows certification to the court.

Carrion was sentenced to five days in jail for each offense, suspended as long as she completes the course within 12 months. She was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for each offense, with $800 suspended for each fine if she shows proof of taking the class. She will be on supervised probation until the class is over and will be put on unsupervised probation after that.


Look at her eyes.  She’s lifeless and dead inside… a result, no doubt, of worshiping the god of this age.  Mercy needs mercy.  Pray for her soul.  It’s currently lost.  2 Corinthians 4:4

My religion says I should sacrifice people who sacrifice animals in the name of religion.

This treatment of animals is actually not as horrific as most chickens (and all animals) who are factory farmed that most people buy every day at grocery stores. Some can not even move in the tiny cages for their entire lives. Go to humanesociety.org and enter “factory farming” in the search. I do agree that this woman’s treatment of animals is not ok, and I think we should all be truly informed of our roles in animal welfare and help all animals to live and die without suffering. The factor farming industry relies on consumers to look the other way and live in denial about the way that animals are mistreated in life and frequently at death, please get informed since from reading the outrage in the comments I know you care about animals.

It’s disgusting that the Gov’t is stomping all over her religious freedom.

I find all of these outraged citizens a little over the top.

Where exactly do folks think the phrase “like a chicken running around with its head cut off” comes from?  It is real.  When farmers would kill a chicken for dinner they would “wring their necks”.  My grandmother would tell us about doing just that.

I guess if these commenters visited a poultry processing plant, they would be even more outraged.  Humans kill other animals for food.  Humans kill other animals for sport (deer, bears, foxes, etc.).  And yes, some humans kill animals for religion.

I may not understand it but they have the right to do it.  Unless you are going to give animals “rights” and pair them up with their own public defender lawyer, this is the law.

Sterling has been transformed into a 3rd world Country and its working out so well.

neolbo is a conspiracy theorist, not sure what you were driving at.  Killing an animal like this is wrong - which is my opinion, not my religion.

Oh look at this.  People getting all up in arms about freedom of religion.  Bet they’re all voting for Pence in the fall too.  It only makes no sense when it’s against what you’ve been programmed to believe. You’re allowed to force some rape victim to carry a fetus to term, or take away subsidized birth control to those who can’t afford it, because religion, but suddenly some lady cutting heads off chickens has crossed the line?  You’re right though, it is animal cruelty, and the next thing is Sharia Law.  However, the only real solution here is to get all religion out of politics PERIOD. (Psst- This includes your religion, too.)

whatever happened to animal cruelty?....our law system needs some serious work, it is completely upside down….so killing chickens in a barbaric manner in your background is lawful now according to the “authorities”....what a shame….

This may not be against the law but I think the BoS could get wide support for a ordinance against superstitions.

I just don’t know where to start, or how much will be censored if I really say how I feel.  What this person (if I can call her that) has done, and unfortunately is to be given carte blanche to continue to do, makes me sick to my stomach.  I can’t sleep, which is why I’m writing this so late.  Over the years, I’ve witnessed some gruesome scenes and bodies of a couple of people who did not die of natural causes.  None of that compares to what I’m visualizing right now. Her actions are disgusting; the judge’s decision is disgusting.  Rather than take this “class” that promotes her to HIGH PRIESTESS, there’s nothing I’d like more than for her to relocate to the country where this religion is practiced out in the open.  Then she won’t have to keep empty file cabinets around—just in case.  A lot of us are superstitious about different things, but as far as I know, for the most part, our thoughts don’t involve harming God’s creatures. I’m so thankful that I don’t live anywhere near her, because if I did, I’d be packing up my things right now.  It would be unsafe to allow our children or even our pets outside.  Perhaps I speak for most of us CIVILIZED Loudoun County residents, regardless of whether or not we practice religion at all, by offering just one simple word:  KARMA.  Finally, did anyone notice the irony of her first name (Mercy)?  Do you suppose she even understands that concept?

This is insane. What’s next, children abused and the parent claims it’s part of their religion? Freedom of Religion should not be confused with sickening animal cruelty.

Who is the judge in this case?  Does anyone have contact with him?  This has been challenged several times and their are loop holes!  This judge need to find one!!

Here is an example of what he can do:

In 1993, the issue of animal sacrifice in Santería was taken to the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah. The court ruled that animal cruelty laws targeted specifically at Santería were unconstitutional.[19]
In 2009, legal and religious issues that related to animal sacrifice, animal rights, and freedom of religion were taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the case of Jose Merced, President Templo Yoruba Omo Orisha Texas, Inc., v. City of Euless. The court ruled that the Merced case of the freedom of exercise of religion was meritorious and prevailing and that Merced was entitled under the Texas Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (TRFRA) to an injunction preventing the city of Euless, Texas, from enforcing its ordinances restricting his religious practices relating to the use of animals,[20] (see Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 110.005(a)(2)) without the court having to reach his claims under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. After the court case was settled, a news article was published in the Dallas Observer documenting the volume and brutality of the animal sacrifices.[21]

Someone has to stop this sociopath, if my religion believed I need to do “human Sacrafices” would it be ok if I did it humanely?


This is sickening. I’m horrified that this woman will be allowed to own animals again. Freedom of religion does not mean that a person can violate laws and harm animals. It shows no common sense on the part of the judge. And some poor creatures are going to suffer and die because it.

SO LET ME GET THIS STRAIGT, BECAUSE SHE IS THE RELIGION, “Santeria” This freak is allowed to kill animals humanely?  What about the human bone found or is that ok to as long as she kills things “humanely”.  Something is seriously wrong here.  My religion tells me this is wrong and I plan on doing something about it.  I am contacting other authorities.

Of course she can, all in the name of Multiculturalism.
Next thing that will be ok is Sharia Law.

Are you kidding me?  WHAT?  Your going to allow this woman to SACRAFICE animals? Dogs, Cats, humans, chickens?  As long as it’s humanely done?  I hope PETA, HSUS and the FBI know about this.

So how many animal victims are we talking about here?  I’m all for freedom of religion, including freedom from religion, but we wouldn’t allow child sacrifice if a religion demanded it, would we?  Even if these chickens are killed humanely, it’s not for food or anything other than to enable extremely obvious superstition. The way these chickens were treated is horrific.

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