[PHOTO CREDIT: Polk County Sheriff’s Office]
[Original Publish Date: 01/07/21]
POLK COUNTY, Florida — DNA from a discarded cigar helped a nab a man who robbed several graves of remains last month and when Lake County Sheriff’s Office detectives interviewed him, he confessed and snitched on his partner, according to a press release.
On Dec. 6, a woman and her daughter were driving northbound down Britt Road when they noticed a disrupted tombstone at Edgewood Cemetery and went into the cemetery and found two other graves vandalized and called LCSO, according to a report. Deputies responded and found four graves had been disturbed along with an attempt to access a fifth, LCSO Lt. John Herrell said last month.
“Detectives and crime scene investigators responded to the scene and began the investigation and found evidence that suggests that this incident is very likely tied to some form of ritualistic activity. Detectives also found that there were missing remains from the four graves that had been accessed,” Herrell said.
Crime scene investigators collected evidence, including cigars and a DNA test matched Brian Montalvo Tolentino, 43, of Davenport, in Polk County. Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) detectives then obtained a search warrant for Tolentino’s DNA on Jan. 6, according to a press release.
LCSO detectives interviewed Tolentino and he confessed to the crime and said Juan Burgos Lopez, 39, of Lake Wales, also in Polk County, was with him. Tolentino told LCSO Lopez used a crowbar to open the vaults and remove the skulls from four graves. Then they returned to Lopez’ home. Tolentino said they stole the skulls for religious practices, the press release states.
PCSO obtained a search warrant Wednesday night for Lopez’ home and found six skulls, a hand, a partial arm and multiple other large bones, within what appeared to be a religious shrine, Herrell said in the press release. Lopez told detectives four of the skulls did come from Edgewood Cemetery and the other two came from “other practitioners.”
Tolentino and Lopez were both arrested for four counts each of disturbing the contents of a grave and abuse of a dead human body. They were both booked into the Polk County Jail on $40,000. Additional charges in Polk County are pending.
Our Editor-in-Chief, Marilyn M. Aciego, began writing for Lake Legal News in 2010. Born and raised in Lake County, she is a graduate of Umatilla High School and Lake-Sumter State College. She started her journalism career at LSSC, where she was editor of both student publications, The Angler and The Odyssey. Her professional career began at the Daily Commercial in 2004 where she covered cops and courts the majority of her time there until she left in 2009. Currently, along with being Editor-in-Chief of Lake Legal News, she is the Florida bureau chief for an international media organization. She has made more than two dozen appearances on live national television, including Nancy Grace and the Greta Van Susteren show, along with her appearance on Evil Twins. Contact her with breaking news, tips, and feedback by sending an e-mail to 352Tips@gmail.com. You can also contact us on our Facebook page — and make sure you “Like” and “Follow us” there. [PHOTO CREDIT: Bonnie Whicher]