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28665: Hermantin(News)No prison time for woman with skull in suitcase (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Posted on Fri, Jul. 21, 2006

No prison time for woman with skull in suitcase


A Miramar woman who carried a human skull into the United States through Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport will not go to prison.

Myrlene Severe, 30, was sentenced in federal court Friday to two years of probation and charged a $1,000 fine. The Haitian woman, who practices Vodou, did not know she was committing a crime when she brought the skull from Haiti on Feb. 9, said her attorney Kenneth Hassett.

''She truly does believe in Vodou,'' Hassett told U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn Friday. ``She truly does believe a skull will protect her. That was on her mind when she boarded that plane.''

She was exercising her religious beliefs when she brought the skull into the country, Hassett said.

Federal agents found the skull, with strands of black curly hair, in Severe's luggage after her Lynx Airline flight arrived from Haiti. It was nestled in a cotton rice bag along with a banana leaf, dirt, small stones and a rusty iron nail.

Severe originally was charged with three federal felonies: intentionally smuggling a human head into the United States; not having the proper paperwork; and bringing hazardous material onto an airplane.

The charges were later downgraded to a misdemeanor for illegally storing human remains.

Severe, wearing a pale pink jacket and dress, did not speak at Friday's hearing and declined to talk to reporters afterward.

It is against the law to bring human body parts into the United States without paperwork indicating a proper scientific use such as medical research or transplant.

Severe is a permanent legal U.S. resident.

''She's happy with the result and she'd like to move on with her life,'' Hassett said. ``She would like to become a U.S. citizen. She will continue her belief.''


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