The Navajo reservation's top law-enforcement officer told a Phoenix radio station Monday that two teenagers had taken their lives in ritualistic suicides over the weekend.
However, Chief Bill Kellogg later denied the occurrence of what would have been the fourth and fifth deaths attributed to an outbreak of Satan worship among Navajo youths."I have not received any reports whatsoever of cult-related deaths over the weekend," Kellogg said Monday evening.
Kellogg had told station KFYI that two youths had killed themselves in a boarding school on the reservation, and two young women were hospitalized in the aftermath.
On Friday, Kellogg said his department had linked three suicides to satanism in the last nine months. He added that he was concerned enough about the situation to have formed a three-member investigative unit.
In three phone calls with KFYI, the police chief declined to identify the boarding school but said it was in New Mexico. The three confirmed suicides occurred in Arizona. The 25,000-square-mile reservation sprawls over parts of both states, plus Utah.
Tapes provided by the station included this comment: "Now we had two over the weekend, and then two girls taken to the hospital . . . this was out in a school on the New Mexico side of the reservation."
Called for confirmation, Kellogg said, "I only told the guy (from KFYI) that I heard on a local radio station this morning that there were two suicides and two people hospitalized."
Broadcasters in Gallup, N.M., and the tribal capital of Window Rock said they had not aired such a story.
Tribal Sgt. John Holiday, the shift commander in Shiprock, N.M., said he had not been informed of any new suicides, and Shiprock Public Hospital said it had not received the bodies of any Indian youths.
Kellogg estimated last week that as many as 150 Navajos were involved in satanic cults, some of which allegedly practice human sacrifice. However, Kellogg said he had ruled out homicide in the three Arizona deaths.
"They are sucicides; they were not tortures or anything like this," he said. "They had some of the graffiti on their bodies of a satantic cult."
In the grisly series since February, the three bodies were found with the number "666" burned into their skin. The number is linked in the biblical Book of Revelations with the anti-Christ.