A triple homicide in Florida is being investigated as a possible ritualistic killing connected to the recent blue moon, a sheriff said Tuesday.

The bodies of Voncile Smith, 77, and her sons Richard Smith, 49, and John Smith, 47, were discovered Friday in their Pensacola-area home, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said. He said investigators believe the family was killed the previous Tuesday, July 28, about 7 p.m.

"Initial research had led us to believe it was a ritualistic killing," Morgan said, adding that police have identified a "person of interest" in the case.

Asked to elaborate, Morgan replied, "The method of the murder — blunt force trauma ... positioning of the bodies — and our person of interest has some ties to a faith or religion that is indicative of that. The time of death on Tuesday also coincides with what's referred to as a blue moon, which occurs every three years."

All three victims were struck multiple times with a claw hammer and had their throats slit, and Richard Smith also had a gunshot to his right ear, Morgan said.

The blue moon, a rare second full moon in a single month, occurred on Friday, July 31, however, not last Tuesday. The sheriff did not explain the discrepancy and his office did not return a telephone call seeking clarification.

Richard Smith was employed by the Department of Homeland Security and worked at Naval Air Station Pensacola, but officials with the Naval Criminal Investigative Services "have determined there are no issues involving ... national security elements," Morgan said.