Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Blood Oath Murder

Blood Oath

According to police and prosecution documents, Sherry Harlan was stabbed at least four times by Christensen. Police alleged that he used a knife from her apartment to kill her on January 2, 2010, the morning of the noisy altercation heard by Sherry's neighbors.

At one point, Christensen talked to the detectives and told them that he and Sherry were both followers of the Wiccan religion and that Sherry had taken a "blood oath" with him to break off a relationship with another man that she had begun while Christensen was in prison. He said that the alleged blood oath had been witnessed by another person, over the telephone, the same person who had assisted him in disposing of Sherry's body. He allegedly told investigators that "breaking the blood oath" would "make Harlan a warlock, literally an evil traitor." According to Snohomish County senior deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson, the so-called blood oath had occurred in December 2009.

Craig Matheson
Craig Matheson
Other Wiccans were adamant that Christensen's actions were not condoned by the religion, and many questioned whether he was actually a Wiccan.

Matheson contended that the murder was not related to the Wiccan religion, despite Christensen's claims.

"This is about control," Matheson said. "This is about this guy marking his territory, and woe be to Sherry Harlan if she goes against that oath...Christensen has a well-documented criminal history of offending against former girlfriends."

According to Matheson, Christensen described the blood oath "as a ceremony where you promise to do various things or not do various things" and the vow is sealed by pricking a finger, collecting some blood and burning it with incense.

"That blood is part of sealing the deal," Matheson said, his statement based on what Christensen had allegedly told police. "They do their various incantations, make the oath and purify the circle. According to Christensen, back in ancient times if you break the blood oath, the penalty...could be death."

Matheson further stated that he had been reading about the Wiccan religion since Christensen's statements to police, and he had not found anything in the literature indicating that Sherry's gruesome dismemberment was in any way related to the religion. He concluded that the dismemberment had merely been Christensen's effort to dispose of Sherry's body.

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