SAN ANTONIO -- Some drug traffickers pray to La Santa Muerta, or the Angel of Death, to seek protection from law enforcement. Authorities say they've seen a tremendous spike in the use of the "Saint of Death" by criminals in South Texas and nationwide.
At a religious store on the city's south side, La Santa Muerta is one of the most popular items.
Those who turn to her want success, love and health. But authorities say the bad guys turn to her to ward off the long arm of the law.
Believers say La Santa Muerta is an all-purpose saint.
"Like green, for instance, means money; red for love; white for healing; black is an all purpose for guidance," explained Hector at Jim's Botanica.
But for years law enforcement officers have known about a dark side.
"A lot of people that pray to her pray to her as the Angel of Death," says U.S. Marshal Robert Almonte.
Almonte says some drug traffickers pray to the Saint of Death, or "Holy Death" to prevent being arrested.
"The proof is that when they are arrested I think that shows proof that these things don't help them," Almonte said.
Almonte says La Santa Muerta is often a red flag for authorities investigating drug activity . It's a sign to be careful.
"When you talk about criminal activity that's evil in itself," the marshal explained. "When we're talking about the use of something like Santa Muerta, then now I think we're talking about the dark side of that evilness."
Almonte says he has studied the topic since 1985. He said very often officers from all over the country contact him, and their questions surround La Santa Muerta.