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 have been arrested in connection with her death, police said Friday.
The child, Arely Naomi Proctor, died last September after family members performed a ceremony because they believed she was “possessed by an evil spirit,” court documents show. 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 the Iglesia Apostoles y Profetas, a tiny Pentecostal church in San Jose, and Rene Hernandez-Santos, the child’s uncle. They were arrested on charges of child abuse leading to 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 known if the girl’s grandfather and uncle have an attorney who can speak on their behalf. The Santa Clara public defender office, which is representing 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 would “wake up and scream or cry periodically.” She and her brother brought the child to the church on Sept. 24, where they were joined by their father to perform an exorcism.
Claudia Hernandez-Santos told police she attempted to stick her finger down her daughter’s throat to induce vomiting and that the child “fell asleep several times” while she pushed down on her throat with her hand, court documents show.
The child’s mother is accused of depriving the girl of food and of holding her neck and squeezing it while the grandfather and uncle held the child down.
Claudia Hernandez-Santos told police that after her daughter became unresponsive they waited two hours to call police, records show.
The grandfather told the Mercury News last week that he performed a ceremony on the child to “liberate her of her evil spirits.” He didn’t want to reveal the details of the exorcism but said his granddaughter was asleep when she got to the church and the ceremony took two hours.
“If you read the Bible, you’ll see that Jesus casts away demons and made sick people healthy again,” 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.”