The murders of a Florida woman and her two adult sons are being investigated as a “ritualistic killing” connected to the recent blue moon.

Voncile Smith, 77; John William Smith, 49; and Richard Thomas Smith, 47, were found dead near Pensacola, Fla., on July 31, three days after police said they were slain. Police checked the home after a co-worker of Richard Thomas Smith at the Department of Homeland Security reported him missing.

Richard Thomas Smith was shot in the head; all three victims were beaten with a claw hammer and had their throats slit.

“The elements of this case are odd, at best,” Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said at a news conference, as Reuters reported. “We have a very reclusive family. Obviously we’ve canvassed the neighborhood, spoken to people who’ve lived there for years and years. Neighbors have related to us that they’ve never met members of this family.”

Though authorities did not go into much detail, they described the killings as related to witchcraft, and are investigating a person of interest “with ties to witchcraft.”

“It appears that this might be connected to some type of Wiccan ritual killing and possibly tied to the blue moon,” Escambia County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Andrew Hobbes told NBC News.

[Witches offended as Florida triple slaying linked to “witchcraft"]

“Initial research has led us to believe it was a ritualistic killing,” Morgan also said, as the Pensacola News Journal reported. “The method of the murder — blunt force trauma, slit throats, positioning of bodies — and our person of interest has some ties to a faith or religion that is indicative of that. The time of the death on Tuesday also coincides with what’s referred to as a blue moon, which occurs every three years.”

A “blue moon” is the nickname for a second full moon within a calendar month. One occurred last Friday, July 31, three days after the Smiths were killed. As the Associated Press reported: “The sheriff did not explain the discrepancy and his office did not return a telephone call seeking clarification.”

[The heavens unveil a full “blue moon" on Friday to say goodbye to July]

Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan speaks at a news conference in Pensacola, Fla., Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015. Morgan said a triple homicide in Florida is being investigated as a possible ritualistic killing connected to the recent blue moon. (Ben Twingley, Pensacola News Journal via AP)
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan. (Ben Twingley, Pensacola News Journal via AP)

Morgan also said that the murders were unrelated to “national security elements,” despite Richard Thomas Smith’s employment at Naval Air Station Pensacola.

“It’s frightening to think about,” a neighbor of the Smiths said, as WECT reported. “Especially when you have small children … to find out that it was this weird, satanic cult, witchcraft whatever, is just really unsettling.”

Occasionally a plot point in thrillers — perhaps most famously Thomas Harris’s “The Red Dragon,” which included the first appearance of Hannibal Lecter — the full moon’s link to crime is often anecdotally noted, as the etymology of the word “lunacy” attests, and occasionally established in scientific studies. Notorious serial murderer Albert Fish, for example, “would eat large amounts of raw meat, especially during full moons, and rave on about being a Christ figure,” as recorded in “Weird New York.” His nickname: the “Moon Maniac.”