Mum, uncle and grandfather face judge in bizarre ‘exorcism’ death of 3-year-old

Three people are in court accused of killing a 3-year-old girl during a ‘exorcism’ at a rural church California.

The trio claim they thought the little girl was “possessed by a demon,” and tried to “free” her with a ritual, according to police officer Lt JJ Vallejo. The family believed the girl might have been possessed because they thought she saw something sinister on her mum’s mobile phone, the lead investigator told the hearing.

The evidence from Lt. Vallejo started a hearing to decide if Claudia Hernandez, Rene Trigueros Hernandez and Rene Hernandez Santos – the girl’s mum, grandad and uncle – should go to trial. The hearing in San Jose is expected to last a several days.

All three are accused of child abuse that resulted in death, linked to the death of Arely Naomi Proctor on 24th September 2021. The incident happened at a small Pentecostal church led by Trigueros Hernandez.

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Arely’s mum was arrested first in early 2022, followed by Trigueros Hernandez and Hernandez Santos a few months later. They were all charged with the same crime and their charges were eventually put together.

A coroner found that Arely died because she couldn’t breathe. The police say she was hurt for over 12 hours, including being “strangled multiple times to the point of unconsciousness, she had fingers shoved down her throat to the point she had multiple injuries to her mouth and to her tongue, and she had pressure put on her body, on her torso from the front and back, with so much force applied that she lost consciousness.”

Before he was arrested, Trigueros Hernandez told reporters he tried to perform an exorcism on the youngster. The police think he, Hernandez, and Hernandez Santos held the little girl down to make her vomit. They took turns holding her face, neck, body, and legs. She didn’t get food and barely any water before she died.

Vallejo, who looked into the case, testified about what he learned from the people involved when he spoke to Deputy District Attorney Rebekah Wise. Vallejo also shared what Hernandez said in a recorded conversation with her brother. She said “that God had taken (Arely) and everything was going to be ok,” but worried about how “it’s going to look like we intended to kill her, but we did not.”

Trigueros Hernandez told police that Arely might have become possessed by a demon because she used her mom’s phone and saw something sinister.


The girl’s grandad said to Vallejo that Arely fought during the ritual, which he thought was “power” he couldn’t “destroy,” according to what the lieutenant said in court.

Wise asked Vallejo about an exorcism Trigueros Hernandez remembered from years ago in El Salvador. Vallejo shared that Trigueros Hernandez said they held a woman down and prayed for six hours to get rid of a “spell cast on her.”

The defendant told Vallejo that the woman’s belly got big during the exorcism, and at the end, a big lizard came out of her.

Back to the San Jose exorcism, Vallejo said the grandad and uncle realised Arely looked dead, very pale, “like someone had passed.”

The people in charge didn’t try to get help for hours after Arely stopped responding.

On Monday, there wasn’t much time for the defence lawyers to ask questions, but Dana Fite, who is defending Trigueros Hernandez, attempted to show that the defendants didn’t mean to kill anyone.

“None of these individuals said they intended to kill Arely, correct?,” Fite asked, and Vallejo agreed.

“In essence, they were trying to help her, to get rid of the demon, correct?,” Fite went on to ask.

The tragic exorcism case didn’t get noticed until about eight months later when police, looking into a different crime, searched a church. Two people from that church had already said they were guilty in the other crime. This made people look more closely at the church and they found out about the exorcism of Arely.

Trigueros Hernandez and the church members admitted it happened but denied wrongdoing. The court hearing for the three people accused is going to continue until March 25. After that, Judge Chew will decide if there’s enough proof for the case to go to trial.


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