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Witchcraft Murder Trial Begins

Opening arguments will begin today in the weird witchcraft murder trial of Carla Mendez, accused of the Silver Lake murder of a local snow-cone vendor who she believed had put an evil spell on Mendez' female lover.

Los Angeles Police Department Northeast Detectives found snow-cone man Norberto Castro’s battered body next to a Jetta on Allesandro Street in Silver Lake on July 13, 2005. The LAPD’s fugitive task force picked up Mendez, 22, on February 23, 2006, visiting a friend in South L.A. Cops had apprehended her lover, Maria Gomez, five months earlier after fingerprint evidence placed her at the scene.

The entire tragedy, according to court papers, was driven by Gomez's belief in love spells and witchcraft, practiced underground in many poor Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

According to Gomez' friend Sogui Godinez, Gomez concocted a sinister plan to kill the friendly, 43-year-old Mexican immigrant after consulting a bruja — a Mexican witch doctor operating out of a botanica in the city's sprawling immigrant community.

Gomez decided Castro had cast a spell on her as punishment for spurning his advances. Swept up in her eerie beliefs, police believe that Gomez decided her only escape from the "hex" was to murder Castro.

Maria Gomez (left) and her accomplice Carla Mendez

Gomez ultimately tricked Castro into drinking a concoction filled with paint thinner and nail-polish remover, and Mendez allegedly joined her in bashing his head in with rocks.

A Los Angeles Superior Court jury found Gomez guilty of first-degree murder in August of 2007.

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