By Alex Traub
May 18, 2022
The mother, uncle and grandfather of a 3-year-old girl smothered her during a daylong exorcism at a church in San Jose, Calif., the authorities said last week, announcing charges in an investigation that began with the girl’s death in September.
The San Jose Police Department said that the adults — Claudia Hernandez-Santos, the girl’s mother; Rene Hernandez-Santos, her uncle; and Rene Trigueros Hernandez, her grandfather — had been charged with felony child abuse leading to her death, which took place on Sept. 24.
Each of them would face a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted. All three were being held without bail, according to jail records.
A police spokesman did not name the church. The Mercury News of San Jose, which reported details of the exorcism this month, identified it as the Iglesia Apostoles y Profetas, a small Pentecostal church that holds services in the back room of a multifamily home.
Experts say that faith in miracles is common in Latino Pentecostalism, but exorcisms are highly unusual and very rare. The authorities said the defendants in the San Jose case were trying to induce the girl to vomit to expel what they believed was an “evil spirit” possessing the toddler.
The girl, identified in court papers as Arely Doe, died of asphyxiation, a spokeswoman for the Santa Clara County coroner’s office said last week. She added that the death was ruled a homicide.