As a reality-TV show shot footage, customs agents found fetuses in the luggage of two women at Miami International Airport.
By Juan O. Tamayo
(The Miami Herald) Leave it to Miami to shock even a reality-TV film crew. The crew was shooting footage at Miami International Airport for an upcoming episode when customs agents found a pair of human fetuses in the luggage of two women returning from Havana.
The fetuses were to be delivered to someone in Miami and used in a Santeria-like religious ritual, according to two people knowledgeable about the case.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this,” said Pat Diaz, who retired two years ago after 25 years on the homicide squad of the Miami-Dade Police Department.
The incident, filmed by a crew for an upcoming show called MIA, went unreported for more than a month.
El Nuevo Herald learned of it independently, and MDPD spokesman Roy Rutland confirmed it on Thursday.
The fetuses, a male and a female, were found Jan. 30 in the luggage of two Cuban American women — one in her 60s and the other who looked to be in her 70s.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents spotted one of the fetuses when they X-rayed a sealed jar.
A second was discovered when the jar was opened, according to Rutland.
“The medical examiner made a determination that both of the fetuses were close to 20 weeks and both had been stillborn — they were not viable,” Rutland added, making it clear that there was no foul play in the deaths of the fetuses.
Some Miami residents are trying to arrange proper burials for the fetuses here, said an airline industry official at the airport who tipped El Nuevo Herald to the story.
The two women explained to U.S. authorities that they received the jar in Havana from a babalao — a Santeria priest — and were asked to deliver it to someone in Miami, the airline industry official told the newspaper.
But they insisted that they did not know what was in the jar, and were not charged with any crimes, Rutland noted.
The rites of Cuba’s Catholic-African religions usually involve the sacrifice of small animals such as chickens and goats.
Some also use old human bones stolen from cemeteries. Human fetuses are reputed to be used only by some of the more secretive sects.
Rutland said the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents who found the fetuses could not identify any crime committed by the women, and passed the case to the Miami-Dade homicide squad.
MDPD investigators presented the evidence and forensic reports to the state attorney’s office, which made the decision not to pursue charges, the spokesman added.
Rutland did not identify the women or the person in Miami who was supposed to receive the fetuses, citing privacy constraints.
Spokespersons for U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the medical examiner’s offices in Miami could not be reached for comment late Thursday.
The travel official at MIA said Cuban security officials at José Martí International Airport in Havana are intensely interested in how the jar got past their tight screenings of outbound luggage.
The TV series is scheduled to run this summer on the Travel Channel.
Rutland said he received a call from the crew and understood the show may not even include the incident because of its gruesome nature.