Mom, grandma charged in voodoo burning

June 19, 2009 5:50:19 AM PDT
A mother and grandmother in Queens were charged Thursday with performing a voodoo ritual that left a 6-year-old girl -- scarred for life. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said 29-year-old Marie Lauradin and 70-year-old Sylvenie Thessier allegedly used an accelerant to set fire to the child, who suffered life-threatening injuries during the incident in February.

When doctors asked the family how the 6-year old-girl was burned over 25 percent of her body, her mother told police it was an accident, that she had spilled some boiling water.

When the child was well enough to tell her side of the story, she said she was forced into a voodoo ritual.

It happened inside a home on 219th Street in Queens Village.

Police say 6-year-old Frantzcia Saintil was set on fire by her own mother as part of a voodoo ritual.

"During the performance of a Haitian voodoo practice known as 'Loa,' the child's mother is alleged to have intentionally poured an accelerant over her young daughter's body, causing her to be engulfed in flames," Brown said.

The child screamed and cried, but police say Marie Lauradin was so focused on summoning the 'Loa' spirit, she didn't rescue her own child.

In court today, the girl's grandmother, a Haitian immigrant, was quoted as saying "I didn't see it, but I saw a lot of water on the floor. I took the child to the bathroom and got cold water for her."

With burns covering her small body, the girl's mother and grandmother put her to bed. No one took her to the hospital until the next day. She would be there for the next 55 days.

"The child has suffered permanent scarring - both physically and emotionally," Brown said.

Police say the child's mother told doctors at the Hearst Burn Unit that the February 4th incident happened when her daughter startled her while she was cooking. The mother said that she had accidentally spilled boiling water on her.

Now that the child is out of the hospital and living with a foster family, she apparently told them the truth.

Lauradin is charged with first-degree assault and endangering the welfare of a child and Thessier is charged with first-degree reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child.

According to the charges, Frantzcia suffered second- and third-degree burns covering 25 percent of her body - including her face, torso and legs.

As part of her treatment, Frantzcia was placed in a medically-induced coma and hooked up to a respirator

Frantzcia remains in foster care.

Lauradin was ordered held on $50,000 bail at Thursday's arraignment on assault and child endangerment charges related to the Feb. 4 incident. Defense attorney Jeff Cohen says she denies the allegations.

The grandmother faces a later arraignment.

If convicted, Lauradin faces up to 25 years in prison and Thessier faces up to seven years in prison.