Los Gatos Weekly Times

Relatives charged in exorcism death

Grandfathe­r, uncle accused of child abuse leading to the death of 3-year-old

- By Summer Lin and Aldo Toledo Staff writers

SAN JOSE >> Three-yearold Arely Naomi Proctor was killed during an exorcism at a San Jose church in September after enduring 12 hours of persistent physical abuse — allegedly at the hands of her grandfathe­r, uncle and mother — causing internal bleeding, extensive bruising and other fatal injuries, according to new facts released by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office.

All three family members are in police custody and could face 25 years to life in prison on charges of child abuse leading to death — charges filed more than seven months after Arely died in an apparent exorcism by her relatives to rid her of “evil spirits” at a San Jose church.

The leader of the church, Rene Huezo — who is also the victim's grandfathe­r — and the victim's uncle, 19-yearold Rene Hernandez-santos, were arrested May 11 and arraigned May 13 on charges of child abuse leading to the death of a child. The girl's mother, Claudia Hernandez, 25, was arrested Jan. 31 and was also charged with child abuse leading to the death of the girl. All three are being held without bail, and prosecutor­s intend to consolidat­e the cases to try the suspects together. They do not suspect that the girl's father was in any way involved.

The arrests came two days after a report from this news organizati­on revealed

that Huezo, 59, who is referred to in court documents as Rene Trigueros Hernandez, had indeed performed an exorcism on the girl.

While police declined to specify why they waited so long to make this week's arrests, Deputy District Attorney Rebekah Wise said the new charges stem from a county Medical Examinerco­roner's report that authoritie­s say gives disturbing insight into the physical abuse inflicted on Arely. The medical examiner's office declined to release that report or confirm when its determinat­ions were made, citing the ongoing case against the relatives.

“She was held against her will, and she struggled against her abusers the whole time,” Wise said at a news conference. “This abuse lasted over 12 hours, and after Arely's death, it took more than one hour for the defendants to call 911.”

Wise added that the

3-year-old “was 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.”

The girl's grandfathe­r, Huezo, was previously interviewe­d by police in September when he told authoritie­s he was called to the church, saw the girl vomit and moved her body, noting that she wasn't breathing or moving. But in an interview with this news organizati­on on Sunday, Huezo said: “If you read the Bible, you'll see that Jesus casts away demons and made sick people healthy again.

“It's not when I want to do it, it's when God, in his will, wants to heal the person,” Huezo said. “The preacher is like an instrument

of God; what we do is what God says.”

In a subsequent interview with police Wednesday, he said he conducted two “prayer sessions” at the church and admitted that the girl was “fighting back” with “unusual strength” and tried to bite him, prompting him to hold her “very tightly,” according to a statement of facts released by prosecutor­s. The girl vomited, and Huezo said he went outside to take a call. When he returned, she had already died.

Court documents filed in January state that Claudia Hernandez first suspected her daughter was possessed by an “evil demon” on Sept. 23, 2021, because the girl would wake up and “scream or cry periodical­ly.” She and the girl's uncle, Rene Hernandez-santos, prayed for her until 6:30 a.m. the next day, when they drove the girl to the church because her mother still thought the

child was possessed.

Then Huezo, the leader of the 25-member congregati­on, arrived at the church to help them with the exorcism ceremony, according to San Jose police officers as well as Huezo's own comments to this news organizati­on.

After he arrived, all three suspects held the girl down to try to make her vomit, the officers said; at one point, one person was holding her by the neck, one held her around her abdomen and the third held her around her legs. Claudia Hernandez told police that the three would switch where they held her daughter while trying to make her vomit, until eventually, the girl threw up a “clear/purple liquid.”

When officers arrived at the church, at about 8:12 p.m. Sept. 24, they found the child dead on the floor, where she'd been for hours.

Police said they determined that none of the three suspects tried to perform lifesaving measures on the girl, that she had not eaten since the night before at about 9 p.m. and was only given about 6 ounces of water between then and the time she died.

In an interview with police, the girl's uncle admitted he applied pressure to the child's chest and back, reenacting his actions with a doll as he spoke to investigat­ors, according to the statement of facts provided by prosecutor­s. The uncle, Hernandezs­antos, told police that during the ceremony, he and the others held the girl up in the air, and about 7 p.m. he put one hand on the girl's chest and one hand on her back, applying pressure for about 10 minutes. He said she was alive when he started to apply pressure and closed his eyes — but by the time he opened his eyes again, she'd gone limp, and he believed Arely was dead.

In a follow-up interview this week, Hernandez-santos changed his story, the statement showed. He told police he never placed his hands on the back and chest of the victim and applied pressure.

And while in the first interview he admitted that no one present gave any lifesaving support to the girl, in questionin­g by police on May 11 Hernandezs­antos said he indeed tried to resuscitat­e the girl. He said he didn't tell police that the first time because he was “scared and felt that detectives would not believe him.”

The DA'S office promised Friday they would prosecute the case to the full extent of the law. “A child is gone because of unimaginab­le behavior by the same people who should have been taking care of her,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said.

 ?? COURTESY OF SAN JOSE POLICE DEPARTMENT ?? Grandfathe­r Rene Trigueros Hernandez, 59 left, mother Claudia Hernandez-santos, 25, center, and uncle Rene Hernandez-santos, 19, right, have all been arrested in connection with the death of 3-year-old family member.
COURTESY OF SAN JOSE POLICE DEPARTMENT Grandfathe­r Rene Trigueros Hernandez, 59 left, mother Claudia Hernandez-santos, 25, center, and uncle Rene Hernandez-santos, 19, right, have all been arrested in connection with the death of 3-year-old family member.

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