San Jose police made additional arrests in the September death of a child who died after a supposed exorcism was performed at a backyard church that was recently linked to the kidnapping of a 3-month-old boy.
The 3-year-old child involved in the exorcism died on Sept. 24. Police said in a news release on Friday that the child’s mother, Claudia Hernandez-Santos; the child’s uncle, Rene Aaron Hernandez-Santos; and the child’s grandfather, Rene Trigueros Hernandez, are believed to be involved in the death.
The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner’s Office officially ruled the death a homicide, according to NBC Bay Area. The child’s cause of death was determined to be asphyxia due to suffocation.
The mother was arrested in January, and the other two suspects were taken into custody on Wednesday. They were each charged with child abuse leading to the death of the victim.
Officers were called to a “makeshift church” on a property located on South 2nd Street for a report of a deceased child, the news release states.
“First responders arrived on scene and located the victim unresponsive on the floor of the church. They began life saving measures and the victim was subsequently transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced deceased,” police said.
The child’s family was allegedly performing an exorcism-type ceremony at Iglesia Apostoles Y Profetas church, believing that the child was possessed by demons because the child would wake up screaming and crying, according to court documents obtained by NBC Bay Area. The suspects allegedly held the child down for seven hours while forcing the child to throw up in an attempt to rid the child of the evil spirit, the news station reported.
The family waited two hours after the child was unresponsive to call for help. Police found the child with bruises around their eyes, face, neck and chest, NBC Bay Area reported. Attorneys for the family were not available Friday.
The church where the exorcism was held had been searched in connection to the kidnapping of a 3-month-old boy, according to the news station. The baby was snatched from his family’s home on April 25 and found alive a day later. It’s not clear why the church was searched but NBC Bay Area reported that the baby’s mother and one of the suspects arrested had attended the church.
Minyvonne Burke is a senior breaking news reporter for NBC News.