For release on May 13, 2022
Deputy District Attorney
Family Violence Unit
Two More Charged with Child’s Death in Church “Exorcism”
The grandfather and uncle of a 3-year-old girl who died during a San Jose church “exorcism” have been charged with felony child abuse causing death.
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” at a small, makeshift church, in which they and the child’s mother smothered and strangled the toddler until she died of asphyxia.
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.
Claudia Hernandez, 25, was previously charged, arraigned, and remanded to jail. The new defendants in the case were arraigned on Friday, May 13. If convicted of the felonies, they face life in prison.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen said: “A child is gone because of unimaginable behavior by the same people who should have been taking care of her.”
On September 24, 2021, at approximately 8:12 p.m., the San Jose Police Department was notified of a child death. The woman who reported the matter stated that her 3-year-old daughter died. The police responded to a church on South 2nd Street. Firefighters and medical responders found the baby on the floor of the church.
It was hours after the child had died.
The mother believed that her daughter was possessed by a demon because the little girl would wake up in the middle of the night and cry.
Starting around noon the day of the 3-year-old’s death at the church, evidence shows that the three (the elder Hernandez is a pastor at the church) at various points were praying, strangling, and pushing on the child’s 38-pound body to cause her to vomit up the evil spirit.
The child was pronounced dead at Valley Medical Center at approximately 9:00 p.m.
The autopsy report showed that the child died due to asphyxia from smothering and mechanical asphyxiation, which is force applied to the chest, as well as the mouth and neck. There were many injuries to the child, and they were found all over her body. The most pronounced of the injuries were to her neck and chest, as well as internal bleeding in the heart, bowel, and pancreas, caused by the chest pressure.