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Title: Seminar warns of youth interest in occult practices

Source: The Roanoke Times, 02/22/02

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Seminar warns of youth interest in occult practices

Officers and youth ministers from Southwest Virginia said the seminar could not have come at a better time.

by Lindsey Nair ("The Roanoke Times," February 22, 2002)

Police and youth workers who gathered at a Roanoke hotel Thursday were told that if they had not yet encountered youth occult behavior, they will - soon.

"Get ready," Don Rimer, a nationally recognized authority on the subject told the crowd of 75. "We're only scratching the surface here."

At his Thursday seminar, "Ritual Crime and the Occult: The New Youth Sub- Culture," Rimer, who works for the Virginia Beach Police Department, said many cast off youth occult behavior as a game.

Just last week, when a 15-year-old Narrows High School teen was convicted of a misdemeanor for operating a threatening eb site with Satanic undertones, his father said: "It was just a joke. It was just a bunch of kids playing on a computer."

Sadly, it was no joke or game in Oklahoma City in 1986, when 16-year-old Sean Sellers slaughtered his parents in their sleep and wrote "Hail Satan, the unholy ghost" in their blood.

Or in Virginia Beach in 1991, when Shawn Novak, also 16, butchered two young neighborhood boys in the woods, covered their bodies with brush and displayed the uncleaned knife on his dresser.

Before those violent acts, Rimer said, came months or years of signals, including "goth" fashion tastes, interest in occult materials and strange behavior like drinking blood or wearing animal parts as jewelry.

Occult behavior in teenagers has recently drawn new focus, perhaps brought on by high-profile cases such as that of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, which drew attention to long, black trench coats and violent video games and music.

Not all teens who dress funky or dabble in occult music, games and books are on the path to suicide or homicide, said Rimer. Every teen wants to be different and experimentative, but his fear is that adults simply disregard the behavior as "just a game."

"Take a close look and make sure," he said. "A parent has to know their child. Some youths keep it hidden behind closed doors, in the bedroom. And you don't know until somebody dies."

Violence stemming from teen ritual behavior has occurred across the country, and not just in big cities. In a 2001 case, four Northern Virginia teens are accused in the death of a prominent biophysicist who was stabbed with a sword and had an "X" carved on his body.

One of the accused is the victim's daughter.

On Thursday, law enforcement officers and youth ministers from throughout Southwest Virginia said the seminar could not have come at a better time.

"There is a huge increase" in such behavior, said Jimmy Pentecost, a youth minister with Valley Harvest Ministry in the New River Valley.

He and Paul Bloomfield, who ministers at Straight Street, an outreach program for Roanoke youth, said they have lately seen more kids with an interest in games like Dungeons and Dragons and music with disturbing lyrics like that of Marilyn Manson.

Pentecost has seen more groups of kids styling goth fashion. Goth fashions include all black clothing, body markings or jewelry with Satanic symbols like pentagrams, upside-down crosses or the anarchy symbol.

Pentecost said he is pleased that Roanoke hosted the seminar, which was sponsored by the Virginia Gang Investigators Association.

"They are trying to reach out and acknowledge we've got these situations and we need to deal with it," he said. "To me it is all about kids who want acceptance because there's not enough interaction between the parents and the kids."

Shawn Novac's parents certainly did not know their child.

After he was arrested for the killing of two boys, police found disturbing things in his room, which his mother claimed was "off-limits" to her. So off- limits, in fact, that she stacked his clean laundry outside the room in boxes rather than enter.

Had she gone in, she would have found satanic books and games, the body parts of small animals, clippings of newspaper articles dealing with children's deaths and, finally, a bloody knife.

Because virtually every case of occult crime evolved when adults ignored warning signs, Rimer said he is not easy on parents he lectures.

"We're burying their children. We're putting them in prisons while they [parents] are sitting at home watching soap operas. You bet I'm hard on them."

If you are concerned about your child, Rimer advises looking for a guidance counselor, therapist or cleric experienced in dealing with the occult. You may also call Straight Street at 342-4971.
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