Residents of a west Houston neighborhood near Woodway Drive and Del Monte are fed up with animal carcasses left on the backside of Briarbend Park.
“We’ve seen dead goats, dead pigs, dead chickens, and it’s pretty awful,” said Marina Walne. “We walk down here every day. Sometimes my dog is the one that finds the dead animals.”
The carcasses are typically found along a footpath leading to the Bob Arthur Canoe Launch on Buffalo Bayou.
However, residents tell KPRC 2 some carcasses have been found in the park.
“What is left down here is not taken away, and it’s a health concern,” a resident who asked to remain anonymous said. “It was last May when I first found the severed goat head with burnt women’s clothing and rooster heads buried.”
During our visit to the area, KPRC 2 Investigative reporter Robert Arnold spotted a small wooden cross with a child’s shirt and what looked to be partially buried medical tools. Nearby was a recently discarded rooster carcass.
Residents have also found burning candles, fruit, and wrapped candy near the carcasses.
“Over the last few years, we’ve probably found and cleaned up maybe twenty or more dead animals,” Walne said. “They come in bundles. Sometimes they’re in garbage bags, sometimes they’re in bowls with a dollar or a little money in it.”
KPRC 2 showed pictures of what we saw behind the park to the owner of Botanica Yerberia Elegua Mercedes Rios.
Rios is a priestess in the Santeria religion, known as a Santera.
“They leave it out in the open?” Rios asked while looking at our pictures. “That’s ridiculous!”
Rios said some of what we saw is tied to the Santeria religion, however, she was appalled. Rios said sacrificed animals should be buried to where animals don’t dig up the carcasses or consumed in order to not to be wasteful; never left in an open area in a public space.
“It was something ceremonial they were doing, but what they did wrong was leave it out in the open,” Rios said. “You don’t do that.”
Houston police have been called to the park, but no one has been caught.
“It’s a nice neighborhood and people care and we want it to be a safe neighborhood,” a resident said.
Residents have been asking the city to install either cameras or add more lighting to the area as a deterrent. However, KPRC 2 learned the area just behind Briarbend Park is a bit of a ‘no man’s land.’
The city of Houston Park and Recreation Department said the area behind the park leading to the bayou is county property and the Harris County Flood Control District is responsible for the land on the bayou.
A sign at the entrance to a footpath leading to the landing lists the Sheriff’s Office as an emergency number, but Sheriff’s officials said they don’t respond to that area.
The only person to respond to our inquiries with an answer was District G Council Member, Mary Nan Huffman.
“My office is aware of allegations of crimes against animals at Briar Bend Park. Our office works closely with the Houston Police Department and they take reports like this very seriously. Following this most recent report, I asked HPD to increase their night and evening patrols in the area and to be on the lookout for suspicious activity at this park. Additionally, the city will be hiring fifteen new park rangers as part of the City’s “One Safe Houston” plan. I have requested that a portion of these additional park rangers be assigned to monitor Briar Bend Park at nighttime to further discourage this behavior,” Huffman wrote in a statement.
“Briar Bend Park was selected to take part in the Mayor’s 50/50 Parks initiative and among the expected improvements will be upgraded lighting throughout the park. My hope is that additional lighting will render this kind of nighttime activity infeasible. I ask that residents in the area continue to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activity they observe to HPD’s non-emergency line: (713) 884-3131.”
To make matters worse, only 3-miles away from Briar Bend Park just a week ago, someone dropped off a box containing a headless goat and chicken at the intersection of Fairdale and Tanglewilde. Residents of those neighborhoods said it’s not the first time dismembered animals have been left in that neighborhood.