Thursday, February 4, 2010

Murder in Washington and the "Wiccan Blood Oath"

Newspapers in Washington and media outlets across the country are giving a lot of coverage to the murder of Sherry Harlan, stabbed to death and allegedly dismembered by her jealous ex-boyfriend Eric James Christensen. While such serious crimes are often covered in local papers, this one is getting extra attention for its brutality, and a somewhat more sensational twist - the "Wiccan Blood Oath".

"(Feb. 3) -- Prosecutors in Everett, Wash., say a Gold Bar man murdered his former girlfriend last month because she broke a "Wiccan blood oath" to break off a relationship with another man.

Eric Christensen, 40, was charged Jan. 29 in Snohomish County Superior Court with first-degree murder in the slaying of 35-year-old Sherry Harlan. On Monday, Christensen entered a not guilty plea and remains jailed on $5 million bail. His trial is set to begin March 19."

Christensen has a long criminal record and a history of violence that predates any connection he may have had with Wicca.

The local NBC affiliate King5 did some balanced and better reporting by seeking out a member of the Everett Pagan community for comment on the story.  Jeri Schaible, who had once dated the abusive Christensen confirms that both were studying Wicca, but goes on to state, "he is not a Wiccan, okay"

"Jeri Schiable, a Wiccan, says both Harlan and Christensen had been exploring the religion. Wiccan services are held at a church tucked in the quiet hills of rural Snohomish County.The message there was one of love and harmony.  "The number one rule is, 'and it harm none -- do what you will,'" said Schiable...

Schaible says, despite what some might believe, Wiccans are peaceful.

"Lest in self defense it be. This was clearly not self defense," said Schiable....

Schaible says a true Wiccan could not have been so evil.

"He is not a Wiccan, okay. He does not live by the Wiccan reed. He does not live a Wiccan lifestyle," said Schiable."

Unfortunately, when when Wicca or other forms of Paganism are related to such brutal cases the media seems to go off track somewhat and sensationalize the "strange occult connections."  We all can help bring balance to such reporting by making comments in the sections provided by many news outlets that go along with each story.  Such comment sections have replaced the "letters to the editor" parts of many media sources. I would invite local pagans and members of COG from the Everett, Washington area to write their media outlets if they continue to see biased coverage against Wicca regarding this case.

As Jason over at The Wild Hunt blog says:

"Will the press step up here? I can’t imagine a killer invoking a “Christian blood oath” without local Christian clergy being consulted. As for Sherry Harlan, may her spirit find rest, may her killer be punished, and may her friends and family find closure."