A California church attended by one of baby Brandon Cuellar’s alleged kidnappers has now been linked to the death of a toddler from an exorcism, according to records and reports.
Little Arely Naomi Proctor, 3, died in September hours after the exorcism, a religious ritual designed to supposedly rid a person of demons, at a small Pentecostal church in the back of a house in downtown San Jose, the Mercury News reported.
The tot’s mother, Claudia Hernandez, wouldn’t let her daughter eat for hours and was among those who forced her to vomit and held her down during the ritual, which was performed by the child’s pastor grandfather, authorities said. Hernandez also allegedly squeezed her daughter’s neck during the exorcism.
Arely died later that night, and her death was ruled a homicide by asphyxiation by the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner’s Office, the outlet said.
Her mother has since been charged with assault on a child resulting in death.
The makeshift church, Iglesia Apostoles y Profetas, first made headlines last month when it was revealed that a woman accused of helping kidnap tiny Brandon Cuellar from his home in San Jose in April was a parishioner — who had met the baby’s grandmother through the congregation.
The kidnapping suspect, Yesenia Guadalupe Ramirez, 43, and two men allegedly swiped Brandon from his mother’s apartment as the baby’s grandmother was unloading groceries while watching him.
Brandon was found safe at day later at one of the suspect’s homes. The motive for the kidnapping is unclear.
As for little Arely, her grandfather who performed her exorcism, Rene Huezo, addressed the little girl’s death at a church service Sunday.
While Huezo admitted to performing the exorcism to “liberate [Arely] of her evil spirits,” he described her death as “the stuff of God.”
He also maintained that the tot showed no signs of physical distress during the ritual, which took about two hours.
Despite Huezo’s comments, Oscar Ayala, a preacher at the church who was not present during the exorcism, admitted that emergency services should have been contacted sooner.
The News said 911 wasn’t called till an hour or two after the child died.
“Maybe, I don’t know, we didn’t take the most logical approach,” he said.