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Child exorcism death case headed to trial


SAN JOSE — A judge has upheld child abuse charges in the notorious exorcism death of a 3-year-old girl at a small San Jose church in 2021, paving the way for the victim’s mother and two other close relatives to stand trial, court records show.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Hanley Chew issued a ruling May 13 in which Claudia Hernandez, Rene Trigueros Hernandez and Rene Hernandez Santos were held to answer — the procedural term for declaring sufficient trial evidence — on the criminal charges filed against them two years ago.

The defendants are, respectively, the mother, grandfather and uncle of Arely Naomi Proctor, who died Sept. 24, 2021, at a 25-member Pentecostal church south of downtown San Jose run by Trigueros Hernandez.

They were each arraigned Monday on restated trial charges of felony child abuse resulting in death. Their next court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 14; all three are being held in Santa Clara County jail custody.

Chew’s ruling was based on a week-long preliminary examination that concluded March 25, during which only prosecution witnesses testified before the judge.

San Jose police detectives testified about interviews with the defendants after Arely died — but before they were arrested several months apart the following year — as well as a recorded conversation between Claudia Hernandez and her brother in which she reportedly said “that God had taken (Arely) and everything was going to be OK,” and cautioned about how “it’s going to look like we intended to kill her, but we did not.”

Michelle Jorden, the county’s chief medical examiner who performed Arely’s autopsy, also testified, detailing the multitude of injuries the child suffered before she died, which included bruising all over her body and markings on the child’s neck, numerous burst blood vessels and brain swelling that were all indicative of asphyxiation and being smothered.

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