Convicted Ct. witches to be exonerated

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In June of 1662, Mary Sanford was convicted of "familiarity with Satan." She was one of several people caught in a witch hunt in Hartford, Conn., that was set off by a young woman and an 8-year-old girl. The two, according to witness accounts, blamed their "strange fits" and sicknesses on several local women.

Rebecca Greensmith, a contemporary of Mrs. Sanford who admitted to being a witch, testified that she and three other women, including Mrs. Sanford, had met in the woods. She also described meeting some people "under a tree in the green" by her house, where they "danced and had a bottle of sack," or sherry.

The historical record on Mrs. Sanford stops there. Historians surmise, based on other documents, that she was hanged for her crimes. Researchers guess that she was about 39 years old at the time, with five children at home. Records show that her husband later moved to another town and remarried.

Nearly 350 years later, Mrs. Sanford's great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great granddaughter, Debra Avery, wants to right what she believes is a historical wrong: the execution of Mrs. Sanford. Ms. Avery thinks her ancestor may have been prosecuted for religious reasons or for just having a good time. Mrs. Sanford was part of a "group of friends that hung around and danced and drank and stepped outside of acceptable behavior," says Ms. Avery, a 47-year-old resident of New Preston, Conn. "If I was living then, I would be hanged, too."

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