3-year-old girl killed in California church exorcism, court documents say
SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — A 3-year-old girl was tortured and killed by her family as they performed a disturbing exorcism-like ritual casting out a demon, according to court documents.
The child, named Arely, died inside a small church in San Jose, Calif., after she was strangled by her mother, uncle and grandfather on Sept. 24, according to Santa Clara County prosecutors.
The girl’s family “believed the child was possessed by a demon and were at the church praying for her,” deputy district attorney Rebekah Wise wrote in court documents.
“The victim’s grandfather was identified as the leader of the Church and claimed he was a certified pastor,” Wise wrote.
Arely’s mother, Claudia Elisa Hernandez, 25, of Mountain View, was charged on Feb. 2 with felony assault on a child with force likely to produce great bodily injury. Hernandez is currently behind bars with no bail.
Information about the harrowing homicide was never made public by the San Jose Police Department nor the District Attorney’s Office. Newly uncovered court documents, however, detail what investigators believe happened to Arely.
Hernandez was interviewed by police officers on Sept. 24 and Sept 25. During the interviews, the mother told police that on Sept. 23 she began to believe that Arely was “possessed” because the 3-year-old girl would periodically wake up in the middle of the night crying or screaming.
On Sept. 24 at 6:30 a.m., Arely’s mother and uncle drove her to the church. The girl’s mother, uncle and grandfather held Arely down by her neck, torso and legs for several hours. They attempted to make her vomit by sticking fingers and hands down her throat.
Arely lost consciousness and suffered “multiple injuries around her eyes, face, neck, and chest,” Wise wrote in court documents.
Arely died around 6:30 p.m. after 12 hours of torture, court documents state. Hernandez told police that no one performed medical assistance to help the girl before or after she died.
The family waited until 8:12 p.m. to call 911. When paramedics arrived, they found Arely’s lifeless body on the church’s floor. A coroner determined that her death was a homicide, caused by suffocation and smothering.
Hernandez was the only person arrested in connection to the case.
Prosecutors urged Judge Luis Ramos to deny bail because Hernandez posed a risk to public safety and is considered a flight risk.
“She was born in El Salvador, has minimal ties to the community, and is considered a high flight risk,” Wise wrote.
Prosecutors noted the extreme cruelty Hernandez allegedly inflicted on her daughter. “She strangled her multiple times to the point where the victim went unconscious, she stuck her hands down her throat, and continued this course of conduct for almost a full day,” Wise wrote.
Bizarre YouTube video
A video uploaded on YouTube in January, four months after Arely died, appears to show the mother talking about her daughter’s death.
The YouTube video is titled with Arely’s full name, Arely Naomi Proctor Hernandez.
The woman in the video says, “Everyone wants to know what happened to her, you know, her cause of death. A lot of people turned on me after my daughter passed away; a lot of people thought a lot of things because of how that situation looked. If you weren’t there, you don’t know what happened. I know what happened.”
“When she passed away she was with me. Of course, I’m her mom, why would she not be with me?” the woman says.
The self-shot video is 40 minutes long. At times, the woman smiles and laughs as she chews on gum.
“I could sit here and be negative. But there’s no point in me doing that. I cannot change what is. It is what it is,” the woman says.
She continues, “It’s many reasons why God took her. At least she’s not suffering. In this world, we suffer so much, especially nowadays. Everything is so bad. Everything is going downhill. That’s what I’m thankful for. That she’s not going to grow up in a world we live in.”
“It’s hard to think that I’m not going to see her grow up. But you know, it’s OK. It’s OK because I know she’s in a better place. God knows why He allowed these things. My baby was such a happy baby. Being a mom, it’s one of the best things. Of course when I think of her I get sad and I cry and I miss her,” the woman says.
Hernandez was charged by prosecutors six days after the video was uploaded on YouTube.
She faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
Church connected to kidnapped baby
The San Jose church is located inside a purple house that was swarmed by police officers last month while they were searching for a kidnapped baby.
A woman charged with kidnapping the baby boy, Yesenia Guadalupe Ramirez, is reportedly one of the church’s members. Prosecutors said Ramirez plotted with a second kidnapper, Jose Ramon Portillo, to snatch the boy out of his grandmother’s apartment.
The grandmother told media outlets that she met Ramirez through the church and the two women became friends.
The 3-month-old infant was hidden for 20 hours inside Portillo’s home in San Jose before he was rescued by police.
“The motive behind the broad-daylight, bizarre kidnapping remains under investigation,” prosecutors wrote.
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