SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The grandfather and uncle of a 3-year-old girl killed last fall during an exorcism at a Northern California church were arrested this week in connection with her dead, police said on Friday.
The child, Arely Naomi Proctor, died last September after family members held a ceremony because they believed she was “possessed by an evil spirit”, according to court documents. The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death a homicide caused by asphyxiation.
Police on Wednesday arrested Rene Trigueros-Hernandez, the child’s grandfather and pastor of Iglesia Apostoles y Profetas, a small Pentecostal church in San Jose, and Rene Hernandez-Santos, the child’s uncle. They were arrested for child abuse that resulted in the death of the victim, the San Jose Police Department said in a statement.
In January, the girl’s mother, Claudia Hernandez-Santos, was arrested and charged with assault on a child resulting in death.
It was not immediately clear whether the girl’s grandfather and uncle had a lawyer who could speak on their behalf. The Santa Clara Public Defender’s Office, which represents Claudia Henandez-Santos, did not immediately return a message Friday from The Associated Press.
According to court records, Claudia Hernandez-Santos told police she believed her daughter was possessed because she “was waking up and periodically screaming or crying.” She and her brother brought the child to church on September 24, where they were joined by their father to perform an exorcism.
Claudia Hernandez-Santos told police she tried to stick her finger down her daughter’s throat to make her vomit and the child ‘fell asleep multiple times’ as she pressed her throat with his hand, according to court documents.
The child’s mother is accused of depriving the girl of food and of holding and squeezing her neck while the grandfather and uncle restrained the child.
Claudia Hernandez-Santos told police that after her daughter became unresponsive, they waited two hours to call police, records show.
The grandfather told Mercury News last week that he had performed a ceremony on the child to “release her from her evil spirits”. He would not reveal details of the exorcism, but said his granddaughter was asleep when she arrived at the church and the ceremony lasted two hours.
“If you read the Bible, you will see that Jesus casts out demons and heals the sick,” he told the newspaper. “It’s not when I want to do it, it’s when God, in his will, wants to heal the person. The preacher is like an instrument of God; what we do is what God says.