Eight members of a Mexican family were arrested in the northern state of Sonora on suspicion of committing ritual murders, authorities said.

The spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office, José Larrinaga, told Efe that the arrests made on Tuesday resulted from a recent report on the disappearance of a 7-year-old boy.

He said that when questioned by police on the matter, some of the boy's family members began contradicting each other and finally confessed that they had taken the youngster's life "as a sacrifice to Santa Muerte (Holy Death)."

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"They performed a ritual of the Santa Muerte cult and offered up the blood of a minor," Larrinaga said.

He said that those in custody were interrogated about another minor whose disappearance was reported about a year ago "and they admitted to killing him as well and finally confessed that they had also slain a woman."

The prisoners directed police to a place where they buried the bodies of their victims at about 200 meters (650 feet) outside the town of Nacozari, where the remains of three human sacrifices were uncovered.

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The AG's office spokesman said that the investigations are continuing to determine whether there were other participants in the murders or other if more people were sacrificed.

The Santa Muerte cult, popular among drug traffickers and some other Mexican criminals, is an eccentric blend of Christianity, Indian traditions and folk beliefs that arose in the 1940s in poor Mexico City neighborhoods and subsequently spread throughout the country.

Condemned by the Vatican, the cult is not recognized as a religious denomination by the Mexican government.

Photo: hiperkarma @ Flickr

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