Miami Santeria Mystery: Who in Hell Stuck This Family Photo Inside a Live Chicken?

Freedom of religion is enshrined in our nation's founding documents. But every once in a while, someone overdoses on the Holy Spirit and goes way overboard. Like the 22-year-old Tennessee pastor who exposes his congregation to deadly snakes in the name of Jesus. Then there's the Amish sect leader who went on a terrifying hate crime spree. Or just Google "jihadi."

Here in Miami, many of the most shocking spiritual snafus involve Santería. We've seen skinned puppies, dogs nailed to crosses, decapitated animals strewn across the street, and even a human skull or two.

But perhaps none of that is as crazy -- or cruel -- as what a Parks Department employee found earlier this month: a live chicken with Santería charms sewn into its flesh. Warning: These photos are pretty freaky.

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Here is an email sent by the Parks Department employee, who does not wish to be named, explaining her hideous discovery:

Hi [Redacted Name],

Hope you are doing well these days. We haven't talked in a while, but a very odd thing has happened that I thought you'd find interesting and wondered if you have any suggestions.

About 10 days ago, I was at Larry & Penny [Thompson Park in South Miami-Dade] and a young chick walked toward me along the right-of-way. Alone and out in the open, I have no idea what he was doing there, how long he'd been there, or what happened. I offered some food and he let me pick him up. Upon inspection I saw he was injured along the knee bone. I didn't have much time and thought he probably wouldn't make it through the night, but he did.

I cleaned out the "wound" and did 3 days of dewormer, then several days of bird biotic. He is eating well and looked progressively better each day.

I had to go to my mom's for several days, so I took him with me and he's been a real trooper. As the swelling has gone down after several days, I cannot figure out what is going on with these injuries. There were 2-3 round open marks on either side of the keel bone plus an odd injury right at the top point of the keel bone. As of today it looked as though the keel bone was protruding out of the chest!

My friend the chicken lady [Katha Sheehan] stopped by today to help me take a better look, and we wound up finding the most odd thing. Someone had sewn into this poor live bird some kind of religious artifacts. Unbelievable that this bird was even alive.

Cue the grisly photo reel:

Trooper, as the chick is now called, is doing well. But a central mystery remains: Why in hell would someone cut open a live chicken and sew a family photo inside?

Seriously, we're curious. If you know what this is -- a curse, a blessing, etc. -- let us know.

Even more important: Who are the people in the photograph? If you recognize them, please contact us.

Here are closeups of the contents of the stuffed chicken, including what appears to be human hair, several drawings of skulls, and the photo of three seemingly happy youngsters.

Send your tips to the author, or follow him on Twitter @MikeMillerMiami.

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