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SAN DIEGO — A dark, strange detail of the evidence brought against Larry Millete this week has piqued the curiosity of people following the case: a string of payments to “spellcasters,” who Larry asked to help him harm and control his wife, according to investigators.

The concept is familiar to Rey Idos, a San Diego Filipino language teacher who says he’s familiar with the myths surrounding dark magic in his culture, though he downplayed the number of people who take the stories literally.

Ancient tales of spellcasters, called “mambabarang” or “mangkukulam,” and their powers are passed down through generations, Idos explained. “Bedtime stories,” he told FOX 5. “These stories come up especially during Halloween.”

The teacher explained that for those who take the stories of sorcery seriously, there’s an online marketplace for “spells” and “hexes.”

“Let’s say, for example, I’m the mambabarang or witch,” Idos said. “You would hire me to cast a spell on somebody you don’t like.”

That appeared to be the case with Millete, who investigators say had repeated contact with a variety of companies, asking psychics and spirit channelers to make his estranged wife, Maya, obey him or fall back in love with him in the months before her disappearance.

Initially invoking magic to save his marriage, Millete eventually wrote that it was “time to take the gloves off,” according to Detective Jesse Vicente.

“The emails became increasingly panicked,” Vicente wrote in an affidavit, describing spells that Larry purchased to harm Maya badly enough that she relied on him and couldn’t leave. On a family trip to ride dirt bikes, for example, Larry appeared to request a curse that would make his wife crash and get stuck on bedrest, investigators say.

“Can you hex to have her hurt enough that she will have to depend on me and need my help,” Larry wrote in an email, according to an affidavit. “She’s only nice to me when she needs me or sick.”

Police say that after the date of her disappearance, Larry shifted the focus of his spells away from his wife and toward the man he blamed for destroying their marriage. Authorities presented the string of communication as evidence of Larry’s “homicidal ideation.” He was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of murdering Maya.

While Idos says few people he knows personally take mysticism as seriously as Larry evidently does, he said magic is a sincerely held belief for some Filipinos. He likened the belief to voodoo or ghosts.

“Some people believe in this. I respect it,” he told FOX 5. But “I personally don’t believe in it.”