Santeria priest who fathered a child with woman found buried in yard is charged in her death

Los Angeles Times


Maria Delrefugio Chavez turned to Pablo Pinto Mata, a Santeria spiritual leader, for healing.

The El Monte woman met Mata — a self-proclaimed priest whose followers sometimes called him “El Padrino,” or the Godfather — at a botánica he owned in Montebello, where he performed healing rituals.

He became her spiritualist. Eventually their relationship became intimate. Though Mata was already married with children, he fathered a daughter with Chavez, authorities said.

Then, in 2009, Chavez disappeared. Authorities investigated, but the trail eventually went cold — until this month. Human remains were found buried in the backyard of a San Gabriel Valley home. Los Angeles County authorities said Tuesday the remains are those of Chavez and that Mata is now charged in her slaying.

The 46-year-old, who is of Salvadoran descent, disappeared two years ago after allegedly assaulting a teenage girl, authorities said. Detectives said they can’t be sure he’s still in the country.

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