A 3-year-old girl whose death last fall was ruled a homicide was the subject of an alleged exorcism last year at a northern California church, a newspaper reported Tuesday.
The child, Arely Naomi Proctor, died last September after family members held a ceremony to “release her from her evil spirits,” church officials told the San Jose Mercury News. The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death a homicide caused by asphyxiation.
Police say the girl’s uncle, grandfather and mother, Claudia Hernandez, have been charged with child abuse leading to her death,reported.
“[Hernandez] choked her multiple times to the point where the victim lost consciousness, she pushed her hands down her throat and continued this behavior for almost an entire day,” Assistant District Attorney Rebekah Wise wrote in court documents obtained by KRON.
Details of the case were not made public at the time, but the newspaper reported on it as part of a new scrutiny of the Iglesia Apostoles y Profetas, a small Pentecostal church in San Jose, following the recent kidnapping of a 3 month old baby which led the police to search the church.
No evidence was found in the church relating to the child’s abduction and the church was not part of the case submitted to the district attorney’s office, said officer Steven Aponte, spokesman. from the San Jose Police Department. The baby was found safely in a San Jose apartment several hours after the abduction was captured on CCTV, and police arrested three suspects, at least one of whom attended the same church.
Church pastor Rene Huezo was the 3-year-old’s grandfather and took part in the exorcism, the newspaper reported.
According to court records, Hernandez 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 Huezo to perform an exorcism, Mercury News reported.
The girl’s family “believed the child was possessed by a demon and was at church praying for her,” Wise wrote in court documents obtained by KRON.
Hernandez is accused of holding the girl’s neck, squeezing it and depriving her of food while her father and brother restrained the child.
The church operates out of a basement in a house in San Jose. Attempts to reach church officials through their social media accounts and the church website were not immediately successful.
Huezo said he felt great pain at his grandson’s death but did not believe the exorcism caused his death.
KRON reported that a video posted to YouTube in January – titled with the daughter’s full name, Arely Naomi Proctor Hernandez – appears to show the mother speaking about her daughter’s death.
“People can talk but at the end of the day I know what happened, God knows what happened and the people who were there when she died know what happened,” she said. in the video.