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World & Nation

PCP mix in sibling slashing is also suspected in toddler beheading

A man who allegedly entered a Camden, N.J., home and fatally slashed the throat of a 6-year-old boy as he tried to protect his 12-year-old sister was high on PCP and marijuana, a drug cocktail that police say could have played a part in the beheading of a toddler last month in Camden.

The man arrested in the latest incident, Osvaldo Rivera, 31, of Camden, was ordered held on $5-million bail Tuesday. He appeared in court shackled and hung his head and sobbed as the charges, which include murder and attempted murder, were read. The assistant prosecutor, Christine Shah, told the court that when police found Rivera on Sunday afternoon, hiding in the bedroom of an apartment in which he sometimes stayed, he asked, “How bad did I hurt them?”

The prosecutor’s office said Rivera had admitted smoking “wet,” a mix of marijuana and PCP, before attacking the children as they slept. They were being watched by a teenage babysitter because their father was out, and their mother was in the hospital recovering from an operation. According to police, Rivera sexually assaulted the 12-year-old girl and slashed her throat. He allegedly slashed the boy’s throat, killing him, when the boy tried to help his sister.

The girl and another child inside the house were able to run to neighbors and get help.

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Police were led to Rivera when the girl said she recognized the attacker as a man known as Poppy. Rivera’s actual nickname around the neighborhood was Popeye, and neighbors said they were familiar with him but did not know him to be violent. The girl remains hospitalized in serious condition.

On Aug. 22, police were called to another Camden home after a woman dialed 911 and said that someone had hurt her 2-year-old boy, Zahree Thomas. When police arrived, they found the boy’s headless body on the floor and his head in the freezer. His mother, Chevonne Thomas, stabbed herself to death before police reached her.

Prosecutors said Thomas was believed to have been smoking wet prior to the slaying.

At a news conference Tuesday, officials said drug agents would analyze PCP samples seized in Camden to see if there was a particularly lethal mix of the drug on the streets. Police Chief Scott Thomas said violent behavior while under the influence of PCP is “nothing new.”

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“It’s happening on a daily basis” in urban areas across the country, he said. “But what has concerned us is the attacks on small children .... Is something being added [to the PCP]?” Thomas said.

According to police, Camden has several markets that sell the “wet” mixture, once known as angel dust, of marijuana and PCP. It is smoked and is known to cause delusional behavior, which the Camden prosecutor’s office said “has a particularly catastrophic effect on people, making them incoherent, hallucinatory, and in some cases, violent.”

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tina.susman@latimes.com


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