April 6, 2011 / 9:16 PM / 8 years ago

Grandmother sentenced to prison in voodoo burning case

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An elderly woman was sentenced on Wednesday to up to three years in prison for failing to help her 6-year-old granddaughter when she caught fire during a voodoo ritual, authorities said.

Sylvenie Thessier, 72, had pleaded guilty in state Supreme Court in Queens last month to reckless endangerment for failing to call for help after Frantzci Saintil was badly burned in the February 2009 fire. The child suffered life-threatening burns to more than 25 percent of her body, including her face, legs and torso.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Frantzcia’s mother poured an accelerant on the child’s head and in a circle on the floor as part of a voodoo ceremony called “Loa”. Frantzcia caught fire after her mother attempted to put her inside the blazing ring.

Prosecutors allege that Thessier did not do anything to help her granddaughter despite being home and hearing the child’s panicked cries for help.

Two days later, Frantzcia was finally hospitalized at the behest of another relative.

“This case is a tragic example of how a person expected to care for a child and keep her out of harm’s way did just the opposite when she stood idly by as her daughter allegedly burned her granddaughter during an alleged voodoo ritual despite the child’s cries and the severity of her injuries,” the district attorney said.

Frantzcia’s mother, Marie Lauradin, 31, is awaiting trial on assault and child endangerment charges.

In February, another voodoo ritual mishap led to the death of a woman and injured 20 firefighters after a Brooklyn apartment building caught fire from candles used in the ceremony.

Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr., editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune

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