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sun-sentinel.com staff & wires
Posted February 10 2006, 3:20 PM EST
FORT LAUDERDALE -- A woman was charged with smuggling after federal security screeners found a human skull in her luggage at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport late Thursday.
The woman had flown into Fort Lauderdale on Lynx Air International Flight 210 from Cap Haitien, Haiti. Her bag was being searched at the U.S. Customs counter when the grisly discovery was made. Agents said she did not disclose the skull -- complete with teeth and hair -- was in the luggage.
Myrlene Severe, a Haitian-born permanent U.S. resident, said the skull -- a male's -- was to be used in rites as part of her Voodoo beliefs. She also said she bought the skull from an unknown man in Haiti in the belief the head would ward off evil spirits.
The 30-year-old Severe was charged Friday afternoon with smuggling "a human head with organic matter inside," according to a criminal complaint.
"It still had teeth, hair and bits of skin and lots of dirt,'' said Barbara Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Miami.
In addition to the smuggling count, she was charged with failure to declare the head and transporting hazardous material in air commerce.
She faces a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted on all charges, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida.
Severe remained held Friday on a $100,000 bond. She is due back in federal court March 2.
The discovery alarmed some passengers, and some came up with their own conclusions about the object.
"Religious beliefs, freedom -- people get strange things in their heads. So, people bring in what they want," passenger Ben Knowlton told news partner NBC 6.