Monday, 28 November 2005

Officer uses religious expertise to crack unusual cases

Back in 1997, a string of bank robberies might have gone unsolved if Officer Bob Engborg hadn't been on the force.

Engborg -- who has studied fringe religions including Santeria, Palo Mayombe, Satanism and Haitian voodoo -- figured out that the suspects were all teenage boys being initiated into Yoruba. Yoruba, an African religion with roots thousands of years deep in Nigeria, has some offshoots considered to be voodoo.

The robbers' voodoo teacher and priest, who had just moved to Daytona Beach a few months earlier, encouraged them to raise the $500 he demanded from each for their initiation fee by holding up banks, Engborg said.

"One of the kids said his teacher did a spell for him to make him invisible to the police," Engborg said.

Engborg brought a rare skill with him when he joined the Daytona Beach Police Department in 1982, and that expertise will be missed now that he's retired. Well, sort of retired.

Engborg's last day as a full-time officer was Saturday, but he said he'll still put in about 20 or 30 hours a week to stay busy and consult on the bizarre cases that stump other officers...

"People who saw things that I dug up from ritual sites and used to keep in my office were actually afraid to talk to me in my office, so we'd talk in the hallway," he said.

But not all of his co-workers fear him. Evie Lueck, a paralegal assistant at the department, has become a close friend.

"He's extremely nice and knowledgeable," said Lueck, who shares some of Engborg's spiritual beliefs. "He was instrumental as a technical adviser on a few fictional books loosely based on real Daytona Beach crimes."

If more people educated themselves about religions, there would be less fear, he said. He estimates 5 to 10 percent of Volusia County residents practice an occult or pagan religion. On his 27-person shift at the police department, there are four pagans, he said.

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