According to the San Jose Police Department, on Sept. 24, 2021, at 8:12 p.m., officers went to the 1000 block of South Second Street for a report of a deceased child. First responders found the little girl, Arely, "unresponsive on the floor of the church" and attempted lifesaving measures. She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The victim’s mom, Claudia Hernandez-Santos, was arrested Jan. 31 and charged with child abuse leading to the death of the victim. On May 11, Claudia’s brother Rene Hernandez-Santos and their father Rene Trigueros Hernandez were also taken into custody for child abuse leading to the death of the victim.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office released a statement announcing the charges against the three suspects. The District Attorney says they were "active participants in the 12-hour-long 'exorcism' at a small, makeshift church, in which they and the child’s mother smothered and strangled the toddler until she died of asphyxia." The three of them allegedly "believed that they were expelling an 'evil demon' from the child’s body."
According to the statement, Claudia believed her daughter "was possessed by a demon because the little girl would wake up in the middle of the night and cry."
Court documents provided by the District Attorney’s Office say Claudia "attempted to stick her finger down the victim’s throat and squeezed the victim’s neck to induce vomiting" in order to get the spirit out. The three suspects allegedly held Arely by the neck, abdomen, and legs.
Arely died between 6 and 6:30 p.m., but they did not call 911 until two hours later. No one performed any lifesaving measures, either.
The District Attorney’s Office said Arely died from asphyxia from smothering and mechanical asphyxia, which happens when there is force to the chest, mouth, and neck. She reportedly had injuries to her neck and chest and internal bleeding in her heart, bowel, and pancreas.
She said, "I sit here and think, like, what if something happened to her? What if she would’ve had a sickness? What if something would’ve happened to her? It’s a lot. At the same time, I could sit here and be negative and be sad about the whole situation that she passed away, but there’s no point. It is what it is. What’s the point?"