Self-described Wiccan allegedly listed victim of dagger slaying as ’sacrifice’ in cell phone

By Sue Major Holmes, AP
Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cops: Wiccan listed victim as ’sacrifice’ in phone

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A self-described Wiccan had a man’s phone number programmed in her cell phone under the word “sacrifice” before she stabbed him to death, then claimed he had tried to rape her, authorities said Thursday.

Angela Sanford, 30, is accused of killing 52-year-old Joel Leyba last month with a dagger after inviting him to join her in a Wiccan celebration of spring near a popular hiking trail east of Albuquerque.

She told police she stabbed Leyba three times in the stomach after he tied her up and tried to assault her.

But police say Leyba was stabbed 11 to 13 times, and a detective reviewing Sanford’s cell phone found the nickname “sacrifice” instead of Leyba’s name.

“It makes us absolutely confident there was something more here than her claims of self-defense,” said Patrick Davis, a spokesman for the Bernalillo County district attorney’s office.

Sanford was indicted Wednesday by a Bernalillo County grand jury. Her bond has been set at $500,000.

The public defender’s office, which is representing Sanford, did not immediately return a message Thursday morning.

Wicca is an earth-based religion, derived from pre-Christian religions and magical practices, that promotes a peaceful and balanced lifestyle. The Wiccan spring celebration normally is held at the end of April.

Members of Wiccan groups in Albuquerque have said they do not know Sanford.

Sanford and Leyba met at a casino about a week before the March 22 stabbing, according to an arrest warrant.

Sanford told Leyba she had brought the dagger for a Wiccan ritual, and they were walking and drinking alcohol when Sanford stopped to urinate.

She told police Leyba attacked her, tied her hands with her rope belt, took the dagger from her pocket and made sexual gestures.

Sanford told investigators that to keep from being raped, she let Leyba think she wanted to seduce him. She stripped to her underwear and persuaded him to lie down, then knelt above him, grabbed the dagger and stabbed him three times before fleeing.

A witness a few yards down the trail said he saw Sanford behind some boulders, clad in underwear. When he made eye contact, she came out and told him she had been raped, the witness told investigators.

Sanford and Leyba were only a few yards from a main trail. Several runners, hikers and bikers responded once she made her presence known.

None of the witnesses heard anyone call for help or saw the woman running from the scene.

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