Colorado prosecutors are investigating whether a voodoo ritual was involved in the deaths of two young girls whose bodies were found last month in a car on a vacant property near Norwood, PEOPLE confirms.
“It is part of the investigation by the sheriff’s office,” 7th District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Sherry McKenzie tells PEOPLE. “It is a very concerning case whenever you find two young children deceased.”
Nashika Bramble, the 36-year-old Florida mother of the two girls, and 37-year-old Madani Ceus, of Haiti, were both charged late last week with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths. Both are also charged with two counts of child abuse resulting in death.
Also charged in connection with the case are Ashford Nathaniel Archer, a 50-year-old man from Haiti, Ida Eden, a 53-year-old woman from Jamaica, and 23-year-old Frederick Blair of Norwood, Colorado.
The case came to light on September 8 when San Miguel County, Colorado deputies were called to the vacant property owned by Blair about 30 miles west of the ski resort town of Telluride.
When officers arrived they found the two girls, who are said to be 7 and 10 years old, decomposing in the backseat of a car on the property, a person familiar with the case tells PEOPLE.
How the two girls died has yet to be determined.
While on the property, officers also removed two more children from the property; those children are now in the custody of child services.
“The allegations are they are the kids of Medani Ceus,” Harvey Palefsky, the attorney for Nashika Bramble tells PEOPLE.
Quartet Was Part of Traveling ‘Healing’ Group: ‘An Apocalyptic Kind of Thing’
Bramble, Ceus, Archer and Eden are purportedly members of a traveling healing group that promotes prophesies about the end of the world.
“It was an apocalyptic kind of thing,” the source says. “They are guided by their dreams. They will stay some place until they have a dream and then they go someplace else. They think they can heal people.”
The source says Ceus is the leader and the rest of the group “sought permission from her.”
The group allegedly lived in Grand Junction before relocating to Norwood where they met Blair.
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The group had been living in cars, makeshift huts and tents on Blair’s property since May, the source says, adding that Blair allegedly believed he should “help these people out.”
Ceus, Archer, Eden and Blair were arrested on the property on September 8. Bramble was taken into custody the following day in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Speaking about Bramble, Palefsky says, “I feel she is as much of a victim as her children were.”
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All five suspects have yet to enter a plea. A court appearance for all five defendants is scheduled for October 19.
Ceus is being held without bond in San Miguel County Jail. Bramble is in custody on a $125,000 bond.
Archer and Blair were charged with two counts of child abuse resulting in death and one count of being an accessory to a crime. Eden is charged with two counts of child abuse resulting in death. Both Eden and Blair are being held on $125,000 bond. Archer remains in custody on a $250,000 bond.
“In my 37 years as Sheriff, I have never seen anything as cruel and heartless as this,” San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters told ABC News-13.
Blair’s Stepfather Alleges Group ‘Brainwashed Him’
Blair’s stepfather, Donnie Blair, tells PEOPLE his stepson moved to Colorado around five years ago to grow medical marijuana and met the group in the spring.
“They were telling him they were in a jam, and he is so sweet he offered them a place to stay,” he says, adding, “Over time they broke him down. They pretty much brainwashed him.”
Donnie says they told him that “no one loved him and his friends and family are the devil. They made him burn his glasses and burn his clothes.”
Donnie says while allegedly under their control he allegedly burned his entire crop of marijuana and forced him to stop feeding his dog. “They told him his dog was sick and not to feed it anymore and don’t bring it to the vet because it is not God’s way and the dog could die in peace in a natural way,” he says.
Donnie says they also allegedly tried to starve Blair and punished him for trying to feed the two little girls. “When Frederick tried to feed the kids they wouldn’t allow it to happen,” he says.
Blair used to call his family five times a week but allegedly stopped calling his family in June and quit emailing in July. “That is when we started getting concerned” he says.
Donnie says in late August or early September, they got a call from a friend of Blair’s who had stopped by the property and saw that Blair’s dog was malnourished, which raised a red flag with the friend, who knew he loved the dog.
Donnie says Blair’s father drove from Texas to Colorado, and after assessing Blair’s situation, called the police.
“He was so malnourished,” he says about Blair. “He is 6 feet 2 inches and weighed under 130 pounds.”
“He is a victim and he had nothing to do with starving these kids,” he says.