SAN JOSE (KRON) – On Friday the San Jose Police Department announced the arrest of three suspects for the death of a 3-year-old girl killed in a church exorcism.
As KRON4 previously reported, 3-year-old Arely died inside a small church at 1094 2nd Street in San Jose after she was tortured for 12 hours, according to prosecutors. Paramedics found Arley’s lifeless body on the floor of the church on Sept. 24, 2021.
The girl’s family “believed the child was possessed by a demon and were at the church praying for her,” Santa Clara County deputy district attorney Rebekah Wise wrote in court documents.
San Jose police wrote, “During the course of the investigation San Jose Police Department Homicide Detectives identified three suspects responsible for the death of the victim: the victim’s mother, Claudia Hernandez-Santos, the victim’s uncle, Rene Aaron Hernandez-Santos, and the victim’s grandfather, Rene Trigueros Hernandez.”
Rene Trigueros Hernandez, 59, was the leader of the church and self-proclaimed pastor.
The mother 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” by a demon 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 small Pentecostal church, Iglesia Apostoles y Profetas.
The girl’s mother, uncle, and grandfather held Arely down by her neck, torso, and legs for several hours, prosecutors wrote in court documents obtained by KRON4.
They attempted to make her vomit by sticking fingers and hands down her throat, Wise wrote. Arely lost consciousness and suffered “multiple injuries around her eyes, face, neck, and chest,” Wise wrote.
Arely died around 6:30 p.m. after 12 hours of torture, court documents state. Her family waited two hours before calling 911. The mother and uncle told police that no one performed medical assistance to help the girl before or after she died. Instead, they prayed.
On Jan. 31, Claudia Hernandez-Santos, 25, was arrested by San Jose police and charged with child abuse leading to the death of her daughter.
On May 11, Rene Aaron Hernandez-Santos, 19, and Rene Trigueros Hernandez were also arrested and charged in connection to the young girl’s death.
San Jose police said there was a 4-month gap between when officers arrested the girl’s mother and when they arrested the girl’s uncle and grandfather because new evidence was uncovered by a coroner’s autopsy.
The coroner determined that Arely’s death was a homicide, caused by suffocation and smothering.
On Friday prosecutors wrote, “Evidence shows that the now-three charged suspects in the child’s death believed that they were expelling an ‘evil demon’ from the child’s body.”
“Evidence shows that the three … were praying, strangling, and pushing on the child’s 38-pound body to cause her to vomit up the evil spirit. There were many injuries to the child, and they were found all over her body. Rene Trigueros Hernandez, 59, and Rene Aaron Hernandez Santos, 19, were charged after evidence showed that they were active participants in the 12-hour-long ‘exorcism'” prosecutors wrote.
Judge Luis Ramos denied bail for Claudia Hernandez-Santos after prosecutors asserted that the El Salvador native would very likely flee and never return to court.
Mother shot YouTube videos after daughter’s death
Just four days before Claudia Hernandez-Santos was arrested, she uploaded a 40-minute-long video of herself on YouTube talking about her daughter’s death.
The Jan. 27 video is titled with the homicide victim’s full name, Arely Naomi Proctor Hernandez.
“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. 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 in the video says.
Claudia Hernandez-Santos never blames herself or the alleged exorcism for her daughter’s death. Instead, she says “God took her.”
“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,” the woman in the video says.
“She’s in a better place. God knows why He allowed these things,” the woman says.
The video includes several photographs of Arely smiling as a baby.
The mother uploaded a second video on Jan. 12 titled, “Q&A: GET TO KNOW ME.”
“I had a three-year-old baby girl. After my daughter passed away, everybody left my side. Nobody hit me up. Nobody asked me how I was doing. Nobody. I feel so alone. I could have killed myself because I was in such a dark place,” she says.
The woman cries as she explains how God helped her get through her emotional pain. Her video monologue is more than one-hour-long.
The mother uploaded a third video on Jan. 19 titled, “THE PAST.”
She starts out the video by talking about cosmetics. “I’m not saying I’m all-that. But look … I used to wear a lot of makeup. Now I embrace my face. If you don’t like how I look, then I don’t care. You don’t have to like me,” the woman says.
The video continues with the woman talking about “leaving the past in the past.”
“It’s a lot that you have to do to become who you are supposed to be. The best version of yourself. One of them is leaving the past in the past. Forgive the past. In order for you to move on you have to forgive your past. I’ve been through so much. Whatever happened does not define who I am,” the woman in the video says.
Arely’s mother, uncle, and grandfather are all currently locked in a Santa Clara County jail and charged with felony child abuse. They face life in prison if convicted.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen said on Friday, “A child is gone because of unimaginable behavior by the same people who should have been taking care of her.”
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Anyone with information about this case or similar incidents is urged to contact Detective Sergeant Vallejo or Detective Harrington of the homicide unit at (408) 277-4166, or email firstname.lastname@example.org