(WKRG) – News 5 has learned that authorities have made an arrest in the ritualistic “witchcraft” murders that left a family of three dead in Pensacola this summer.
Wayne Hartung Sr., 58, the half-brother of the three victims found savagely murdered in late July has been charged with the triple homicide. News 5 is told a plethora of DNA evidence required a long time to process, which is why the arrest comes approximately three months after the bodies were discovered.
As News 5 reported this summer, 77-year-old Voncile Smith and her two sons, 49-year-old Richard Thomas “R.T.” Smith and 47-year-old John William Smith, were found dead by deputies conducting a welfare check at their home on Deerfield Drive.
“We’re relieved an arrest has been made,” the Smith family told News 5 on Tuesday. “We are looking forward to prosecution.”
Hartung was there for the Smith’s funeral in August, seen speaking to other family members.
The story of the triple homicide went national after Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan famously said at a press conference that “witchcraft” was to blame for the murders.
According to authorities, all three bodies were found beaten with claw hammers. All three had their throats slit, and Richard Smith was found with a gunshot wound to the head.
However contrary to Morgan’s original report, investigators are now telling News 5 that the bodies were not found laid out in a ritual pattern. All three bodies were discovered in separate rooms of the house, sources told News 5.
Family members tell News 5 that Hartung “loosely” practiced some form of witchcraft or Wiccan religion, and kept at least one Wiccan book in his office.
Richard Smith was described by Sheriff David Morgan as a “critical member” of the Department of Homeland Security. Morgan had to communicate with several national agencies to ensure his investigation didn’t pose a threat to national security.
John Smith worked at a local Walmart. Their mother, affectionately known at “Bonnie,” lived at home with both her sons.
Authorities said in August they had gathered evidence that led them to believe witchcraft was somehow involved in their deaths, saying it was a “ritualistic” act. Investigators noted that their murders occurred near the night of a blue moon, which is heavily referenced in witchcraft lore, and occurs once every three years.
At the August press conference, investigators say they spoke to a person of interest in the case, but didn’t release a name or photo. They did say, however, the person of interest was a white male with ties to a faction of witchcraft. Authorities are yet to confirm whether Hartung is the person of interest they had interviewed.
Many other details pertaining to the murders were considered extremely odd by investigators. The Smith family had a safe containing $7,000 in their home, but the suspect didn’t take anything of value in the aftermath of the crime, they said.