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Voodoo Candle Secures Convictions In Brutal Murder Of Man And Pregnant Fiancée
Seth Aidoo and Eunice Baah happily announced to friends they were engaged and expecting in January 2009. A few days later, they were found dead.
The murders of Seth Aidoo and Eunice Baah was shocking in their brutality. Adding to the horror was the voodoo candle which called for their death.
Seth Aidoo was born in 1969 in Kumasi, the capital city of Ghana in western Africa. He was the youngest of six children and had an innate drive to succeed. At 23, Seth immigrated to the United States to study information technology at Montgomery College outside Washington, D.C. To put himself through school he worked at a grocery store, where he met 35-year-old Sheila Culley, according "Snapped," airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
Sheila had grown up in the Washington D.C. area and had helped raise her younger siblings. As an adult, she opened a successful daycare business which had a waiting list for enrollment.
Despite their different backgrounds and 10-year-age difference, Seth and Sheila began dating and were a good match. They married in 1996.
A year later, Seth became a U.S. citizen. Sheila financially supported Seth while he was in school. After graduating, he started his own business.
In the mid-2000s, the Aidoos bought a million-dollar home in Oak Creek, a gated community in Prince George’s County, Maryland. They turned the basement into a separate apartment and allowed Sheila’s brother, Samuel Culley Jr., to move in.
Unfortunately, after over a decade together, the Aidoos separated in December 2007 and began divorce proceedings. While Seth stayed in Oak Creek, Sheila moved into the house where she ran her daycare business.
In 2008, Seth began dating Eunice Baah. Like him, she had grown up in Ghana and immigrated to the United States to work as a nurse.
“He definitely seemed to love her. She’s from Ghana, you know, she was closer to his age, she knows the culture, they can speak their dialect together. It was a match made in heaven for him,” friend Lawanda Benefield told “Snapped.”
After dating for a few months, Baah moved in with Aidoo — and on January 10, 2009, the couple hosted a party at their home to announce some very big news.
“Seth and Eunice had a number of their friends over to celebrate Seth’s birthday and also some news that nobody knew, that Eunice and Seth were engaged and that Eunice was pregnant,” prosecutor Christine Murphy told “Snapped.”
Their joy was short-lived. On January 14, 2009, Seth’s cousin called 911 from outside the Aidoos' home. No one had heard from the couple in several days and people were starting to worry.
Officers from the Prince George's County Police Department entered the home and found blood splattered on the floor and signs of a struggle. At the bottom of the basement stairs were the dead bodies of 40-year-old Seth Aidoo and 36-year-old Eunice Baah.
An autopsy determined Baah died from a single gunshot wound to the head while Aidoo died from multiple stab wounds. Eunice was about three months pregnant at the time, according to the Washington Examiner newspaper.
Seth had been stabbed over 40 times, reported The Washington Post. Many of the wounds were defensive and the brutal nature of the murder indicated a personal motive, investigators said.
Investigators found two distinct boot patterns in the blood pools on the floor. There were no signs of forced entry; however, Baah’s Mercedes-Benz was missing.
The car had actually been found a day before the bodies were discovered in Prince George’s County. The keys were laying out, as was Baah’s purse, virtually begging someone to steal it. Instead, a Good Samaritan notified police.
A nephew of Seth's contacted police and said that Seth had been in a violent confrontation with Samuel Culley. Despite his sister moving out, Culley remained in the basement apartment until he was asked to vacate, precipitating the fight.
Detectives spoke with Sheila who said her divorce from Seth hadn’t yet been finalized. She said her brother had nothing to do with the murder and offered up an alibi for him.
“She told the detectives that her brother had left prior to the murders to visit friends and was in New Jersey,” said Murphy. “She also told the detectives that he no longer owned a cellphone or that there wasn't any way to contact him.”
To get into Oak Creek you needed a transponder whose signal would open the front gates. Both Sheila and her brother had transponders, according to court documents, though she claimed she no longer possessed hers.
But records showed that one of the Aidoos' transponders was used on the evening of January 12, 2009, which investigators believe was the night of the murder. Corresponding security camera footage showed a mini-van with obscured license plates entering Oak Creek that evening, several hours before Seth and Eunice’s vehicles were seen arriving home.
Another vehicle was seen entering Oak Creek using the same transponder on January 1, 2009. It belonged to Delford Barnes, Sheila’s live-in boyfriend.
On February 18, 2009, detectives executed a search warrant on Sheila’s home, Barnes’ vehicle, and a storage locker that Barnes rented.
In the storage locker, detectives found a large black candle with messages carved into its side calling for Seth Aidoo’s death and listing his home address.
Authorities attributed the candle to being similar to those used in voodoo ceremonies and contend the etchings were curses, according to Washington D.C. CBS-affiliate WUSA.
“I wish you would burn in a house fire,” “I want you to take a knife & kill yourself,” and “Seth please die,” were among the messages carved into the candle, according to court documents.
Detectives learned that both Seth and Sheila had substantial life insurance policies. Each was the other’s beneficiary so long as they remained married.
“If Seth Aidoo predeceased Sheila Aidoo, then first, she was the beneficiary of a million dollar life insurance policy,” explained Ruddy.
“The final divorce hearing was scheduled for February of 2009, one month after Seth was murdered,” added Murphy. “Sheila put in a claim for the insurance policy within a day of finding out that Seth had been murdered.”
After obtaining his cellphone number, Samuel Culley was tracked to New Jersey. On March 10, 2009, he was taken into custody and immediately told detectives everything.
Culley claimed Delford Barnes asked him to accompany him to retrieve Sheila’s mail from Seth’s house in Oak Creek. Barnes had the transponder to get through the security gates and a garage door opener to get inside Seth's home.
While they were inside, Baah arrived home and began screaming at them. Culley said Barnes shot Baah in the back of the head and that she fell down the basement stairs.
“I said, ‘Oh my god!’ As I look down the steps, she was rolling down the steps,” Culley said in his videotaped interview, which was obtained by “Snapped.”
According to Culley, Barnes insisted they wait for Seth to return home to kill him. He said he and Barnes were armed with knives and stabbed him repeatedly. After killing him, they dragged his body down the stairs and dumped it next to his dead wife.
Culley claimed his sister had nothing to do with the murder. However, when asked what happened to the transponder and garage door opener, he said, “[Barnes] must have gave it back to [Sheila] because I don’t have it.”
The following day, Samuel Culley Jr. and Delford Barnes were arrested and charged with first-degree murder, according to Washington, D.C. NBC-affiliate WRC-TV.
A pair of Barnes’ boots were later matched to the bloody footprints found in Seth’s home and his DNA was found underneath Seth’s fingernails, according to court documents.
In September 2010, Delford Mitchell Barnes, 52, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and other offenses. He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to Baltimore CBS-affiliate WJZ-TV.
Samuel Culley Jr. pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and agreed to testify against Barnes. He was sentenced to life in prison, according to WUSA.
Despite authorities' belief that Sheila Aidoo was involved in the murders, there was little to connect her to the case. But in January 2012, she was arrested and it was determined she had etched the curses on what Murphy called “the voodoo candle.”
“Her handwriting was the handwriting on that candle,” said Christine Murphy. “It was clear to all of us that Sheila was not just the accidental beneficiary of Seth’s death but actually had intended for him to die.”
Sheila Aidoo, 52, was convicted in June 2012 of two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder after entering an Alford plea — not actually admitting her guilt but acknowledging there was enough evidence to convict her, according to The Washington Post.
The terms of her plea deal specified she serve no less than 10 years in prison and no more than 20. Sheila Aidoo was released from custody in 2021.
For more on this case and others like it, watch "Snapped," airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen, or stream episodes here.
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