The leaving of dead rabbits at Eastwood Heights Elementary School and the driveway of an East Side home in recent weeks was probably the work of pranksters rather than any type of occult ritual, said a police officer investigating the case.

"It's just going to be kids that enjoy hunting, do beer drinking in the desert and come back with rabbits," said Officer Noe Baeza of the Pebble Hills Regional Command. "As far as a ritual, we are not looking at that."

On May 24, school personnel discovered 14 rabbit carcasses hanging from playground equipment at the school, 10530 Janway. It was undetermined if a dead rabbit found June 12 on the driveway of a home was linked to the incident at the school, which is also in the Vista del Sol section of the East Side.

Animal mutilations are not common, and the last time El Paso saw a spree of animal mutilations was during the "satanism" trend of the 1980s, said Lorenzo Hinojos, program manager for the city Animal Regulation and Disease Control.

Hanged bunnies, a sliced-up ram and a beheaded goat drained of blood were discovered in 1986 in the North Loop-Pendale area, El Paso Times archives show. There were also rumors of "satanic ritual sites" in the desert involving animal sacrifice.

The El Paso police intelligence unit set up surveillance at desert sites, but the Satanists never appeared, a 1986 Times article stated. Investigators said most of the alleged cult activity was pranks.

Whether linked to a cult or a gory prank, the discovery of a dead rabbit on his driveway was shocking, said Julian Rivera III, whose children attended Eastwood Heights. "It's unbelievable ... ," Rivera, 41, said last week. "I hope, if it's kids who are doing this, they realize it will get them in trouble

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