Young Satan worshippers foiled in Florida -- but there's a deeper story here somewhere

You don’t get much creepier than this. Combine Satanism, teen-aged girls and weapons and you’ve got a keeper of a story.

Bartow, Florida, is in the central part of the state — due south of Lakeland and about an hour’s drive southwest of Orlando. Because of the Assemblies of God college in Lakeland, the area is full of pentecostal-charismatic churches. There are other evangelical houses of worship in the area and a significant Catholic population, as well.

Then from WFTV-Ch. 9 in Orlando came one of the better headlines of the day: “Leave body parts at entrance': Bartow MS girls planned to kill classmates, drink their blood: Cops.”

Is this a religion story or a crime story, or both?

BARTOW, Fla. — Two students at Bartow Middle School came to school with knives and planned to attack students Tuesday, according to the Bartow Police Department.

The school resource officer was alerted to a complaint about armed students around 1:30 p.m.

· Police said the girls allegedly planned to kill as many as 15 students.

The girls have (understandably) been expelled. Although some of the news accounts seem sensationalized, remember that it’s been less than a year since a massacre only a few counties to the south of Bartow — when 17 people were killed at Stoneman Douglas High School. That shooting surpassed Columbine High School’s 1999 massacre as the deadliest yet on high school property.

From USA Today:

Police say the girls — ages 11 and 12 — were found in a bathroom stall, allegedly with multiple knives, a pizza cutter and knife sharpener in their possession. The girls planned to commit suicide after stabbing other students, police say.

"The plan was to kill at least 1 student but were hoping to kill anywhere from 15-25 students," an affidavit said. "Killing all of these students was in hopes it would make them worse sinners ensuring that after they committed suicide ... (they) would go to hell so they could be with satan."

The girls allegedly hatched the plot after watching scary movies over the weekend, detectives said. The plan involved lying in wait for smaller students, mutilating their victims' bodies and drinking their victims' blood, according to authorities.

When there’s breaking news and competing media all over the story, it’s tough to find a unique angle. The Lakeland Ledger at least got reaction from actual Satanists.

We applaud the members of both law enforcement and the media who have used the term “Satan-worshippers” rather than Satanists. Many do not realize there is a sharp distinction, and in terms of crime, knowing that distinction can have an impact on an investigation’s success.

A Satanist is a member of a modern religion founded by the author of The Satanic Bible, Anton LaVey. Two of the rules in Satanic canon/law are to not harm children or kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food. … The Church of Satan does not proselytize or recruit. We do not accept minors. Yet we can’t help but wonder how these kids might have behaved if they knew that Satanism is study, not worship, and that Satanism demands personal responsibility above all else.

It also published the two girls’ names, despite their ages, because of the seriousness of the charges.

Rolling Stone did likewise with comments from the Salem, Mass.-based Satanic Temple.

“I’m sure it will be established that these girls held no active role in any established form of religious Satanism, the major sects of which today are non-theistic, humanistic, and anti-superstitious,” Lucien Greaves, spokesperson and co-founder of the Satanic Temple says. “Their distorted perspective of what Satanism is, and their apparent supernatural belief in what Satan wants, is almost certainly the product of a Christian upbringing, possibly an attempt at the tired ‘the devil made us do it’ defense.”

Oddly, I’ve seen nothing online from the state’s largest newspapers, including the (Ft. Lauderdale) Sun Sentinel; the Miami Herald or the Orlando Sentinel. Yet, TV stations are all over it. What’s up with that?

Some of the international media –- notably British tabloids -– jumped into the fray. One of the better headlines was the Russian-based RT.com’s hed: “Schoolgirl duo caught with knives confess vampiric scene.”

They’ve got a good translator and rewrite person at RT, I must say. The article starts off with:

Two 'tween' girls were caught with knives and other sharp utensils at a Florida middle school. On questioning, they claimed they'd planned to kill and cut up their classmates, then drink their blood and commit suicide.

The girls were apprehended in a bathroom stall, where they had been lying in wait for smaller students, according to a police affidavit. They planned to cut the children's throats, slice up their bodies, and eat their flesh, washing the raw meat down with the victims' blood.

After they'd eaten their fill – while they'd be satisfied with one student, they wanted to kill 15-25 of them – they planned to stab themselves to death.

The latest wrap-up, which came out early Friday morning just after midnight from CNN has updated material including the content of the girls’ Snapchat messages to each other.

These being 11- and 12-year-old suspects, the preparations were quite unsophisticated and easy for school officials to find out.

I was interested in how they were alerted via a system that a non-teacher might not know about. I occasionally substitute teach and starting in middle school, teachers must take attendance at the start of each period, then send that form down to the school office.

It turns out that one of the forms noted that the students weren’t in class that period, and the attendance office notified the parents of one of the girls through a robo-call system. Fortunately, the parent who got the call was alarmed enough to call the school back, which sparked a campus-wide search for the missing girl. The rest is history.

What might have happened had these girls been older and more sophisticated is anyone’s guess. There’s no huge lesson –- ie gun control -– to be learned through this story in that the girls provided their own knives and goblet (for the victims’ blood) instead of sneaking in firearms.

But why would any middle schooler seek out such violent thrills, especially if the form of Satanism they were following is not at all according to the book. What’s going on in the lives of these children?

Obviously, just a weekend of horror movies does not a teen Satanist make. These kids had to have been thinking this through for awhile.

For reporters willing to do the work, there’s lots of good articles waiting to be written here.

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