Polk County Sheriff’s deputies arrested two suspects wanted by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office for desecrating graves and stealing human remains in Mount Dora, after a positive DNA hit from evidence left behind during the crimes positively identified the first suspect, 43-year-old Brian Montalvo Tolentino, who lives in Davenport.
When PCSO deputies arrested Tolentino in Polk County, he positively identified his accomplice, 29-year-old Juan Burgos-Lopez, who lives in Lake Wales.
According to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, the thefts occurred on December 6, 2020, from four graves at the Edgewood Cemetery.
Click here to see news reports from December 2020 about the graves being desecrated:
On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, PCSO detectives served a search warrant at Lopez’s Lake Wales address, 5170 Timberlane Road, where they found a shed with a religious shrine, and seven skulls, four of which both suspects admitted to taking from graves in Mount Dora. Two others were determined to be fake, and the investigation is ongoing as to the identity of the other.
The suspects told detectives they use the human remains in their religious practice – Palo Mayombe, which is considered Santeria’s “evil twin” – and they chose veterans’ graves due to the fact that their religion demands that the remains are from those who have “done something heroic.” They told detectives that they drove to the cemetery on December 6, 2020, and used a crowbar to remove the lids of the tombs. They removed the heads and other remains, and placed them in plastic bags, took them to Lake Wales, and placed them in the shrine.
The shed/shrine contained cauldrons filled with dirt and other items such as bones, sticks, feathers, rocks, turtle shells, and small animal skulls, along with the human skulls.
During a search of Burgos-Lopez’s home, detectives also found other religious symbols and shrines.
The deceased victims were identified as:
Henry Brittain, 1929 – 1983, a Private in the U.S. Army and Korean war veteran
Elbert Carr, 1896 – 1988, a Sergeant in the U.S. Army and World War I veteran
Calvin McNair, 1935 – 1992, a military police in the U.S. Marine Corps, buried in his dress blues; he was also a police officer for 11 years in Ansonia, CT.
Annie Faniel, 1935 – 1988, a good Samaritan and caretaker, according to her family.
Burgos-Lopez is part owner of Bushikan Karate (http://bushikanteam.com/), and Botanica Vititi (https://www.vititicongo7rayos.com/) which sells herbs and essential oils, along with items used in Palo rituals; both businesses are located on Dundee Road in Winter Haven.
Burgos considers himself a Tata, or religious leader, and produces YouTube videos discussing different rituals of the religion.
In this video, taken a day before he took the skulls, he talks about how he helps those with worldly problems.
In this video, two weeks prior to taking the skulls, he talks about how difficult it is to get body parts, that it is common in Cuba but that you can go to prison for doing it in the U.S., and that a ritual must be done prior to going into the cemetery. He also says something must be left behind. Candles and a sacrificed bird were found at the Mount Dora cemetery, and orange peels were left behind, in the graves.
Tolentino has a criminal history that includes previous arrests for cocaine possession, drug possession with intent to distribute, grand theft, and armed robbery of a bank in 2000, which he was released from probation in 2011.
They were both booked into the Polk County Jail on their Lake County warrants (4 counts each disturbing contents of a grave and abuse of a dead body) and have each been charged by PCSO with one count disturbing contents of a grave (F3) and Burgos was additionally charged with buy/sell/traffic in dead bodies (M1).