San Jose District Attorney Jeff Rosen charged the child’s uncle, Rene Aaron Hernandez Santos, 19, and grandfather, Rene Trigueros Hernandez, 59, in connection to the September 2021 death of Arely Naomi Proctor, the 3-year-old who died during an attempted exorcism performed by her family at a residential church in California where her grandfather served as the certified pastor, according to charging documents filed Friday.
Both admitted to police at the scene that they all prayed while taking turns holding Proctor down, strangling, and applying pressure to her chest while inducing her to vomit multiple times on Sept. 24, 2021, the documents read. But on Thursday, the uncle changed his testimony, saying he attempted to resuscitate his niece after he realized she had died despite his prior testimony that neither of the family members attempted to revive Proctor.
Police charged the child’s mother, Claudia Hernandez Santos, 25, with felony child abuse causing death on Feb. 2, six days after she uploaded a video to YouTube talking about her daughter’s death and promising to reveal how she died to her 228 subscribers.
“When she passed away, she was with me,” Hernandez Santos said in the video. “Of course, I’m her mom. Why would she not be with me?” Throughout the video, Hernandez Santos laughed, chewed gum, and edited in GIFs as she talked about her daughter.
The mother suspected her daughter became possessed by a demon the day before she died because she would scream and cry, according to a police report. On the day of the toddler’s death, she had nothing to eat or drink except about 6 ounces of water, according to the document. The exorcism began at around 6:30 a.m. and lasted until Proctor died at about 6 p.m. and the mother called police to the scene about two hours later, officials said.
Proctor’s death was ruled a homicide by the Santa Clara Medical Examiner, with the causes being asphyxia from smothering and mechanical asphyxiation.
The autopsy report also included bruising around her eyes, neck, and chest, blunt force trauma, injuries to her tongue, and internal bleeding in the heart, pancreas, and large intestines.
If convicted, all three face 25 years to life in prison.