Two followers of a secret cult are in custody in Argentina after they allegedly kept a girl locked up with a monkey and dog for nine years at a home in Buenos Aires, the local DyN news agency reported on Wednesday.
The girl, now 15, weighed less than 20 kilos and was managing to survive by eating the pet monkey's leftovers, according to the report. She was found when her biological sister began searching for her.
The husband and wife, who were given the child in 2001 for safekeeping, were followers of San La Muerte (Saint Death), a pagan cult that originated in Argentina and has extended to Paraguay, Brazil and Mexico. Followers believe praying to a skeletal-like figure will give them longevity.
In some poor neighborhoods, the figure is placed in a cemetery and believers offer bottles of whisky, flowers and other objects as part of their promises.
She told doctors that she survived on bread, beer, yeast and water
According to DyN, authorities said that the girl’s biological mother, who had seven other children, gave up the child because she could not care for her. The detained couple legally adopted the girl and promised the mother that she could visit regularly. But in 2005, the husband and wife disappeared.
When one of the sisters turned 18, she set out in search for her and found where their girl was living with her captors. After a judge issued a search warrant, authorities located the girl, who was suffering from severe malnutrition, and was living in a garage with the well-fed monkey. They also found numerous objects related to the devotion of the pagan saint.
The couple reportedly told a judge that they beat the girl with belts when they found that she was stealing the monkey’s leftovers.
The girl was admitted to a hospital where she is undergoing psychological treatment. She told doctors that she survived on bread, beer, yeast and water.
The adoptive parents, who were not identified, have been jailed awaiting trial on charges of kidnapping, slavery and abuse.