Coroner Determines How a Toddler Died During Alleged 12-Hour Exorcism: Smothering Isn't 'Accidental'

The 3-year-old died on Sept. 24, 2021 during an exorcism that authorities say included "praying, strangling, and pushing"

<p>San Jose Police Department; Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty </p> (L-R) Claudia Hernandez, entrance to church

San Jose Police Department; Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty

(L-R) Claudia Hernandez, entrance to church

The family of a 3-year-old girl may soon be going to trial for her death, which occurred during a 12-hour "exorcism" back in 2021.

Claudia Hernandez, Rene Trigueros Hernandez, and Rene Aaron Hernandez Santos are accused of killing Arely Naomi Proctor in a 12-hour "exorcism" at a church in San Jose, Calif., on Sept. 24, 2021, per a press release from the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.

Claudia, Rene Trigueros and Rene Aaron — Arely's mother, grandfather, and uncle, respectively — have been charged with felony child abuse causing death and could face up to life in prison.

Their preliminary hearing, which will determine whether there is enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial, began on Monday and is expected to last until next Tuesday, per KNTV.

Elisaa Santos/Youtube 3-year-old Arely
Elisaa Santos/Youtube 3-year-old Arely

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In the press release, authorities claimed that the group "smothered and strangled the toddler until she died of asphyxia" at a "small, makeshift church."

"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 release further stated.

<p>San Jose Police Department</p> Claudia Hernandez

San Jose Police Department

Claudia Hernandez

According to authorities, Arely had "many injuries" that "were found all over her body," including injuries "to her neck and chest" and "internal bleeding in the heart, bowel, and pancreas, caused by the chest pressure."

On Friday, Dr. Michelle Jorden, the Santa Clara County's chief medical examiner who performed Arely's autopsy, said the child "died at the hands of another," per The Mercury News.

Apart from the previously announced injuries seen on Arely's body, Jorden testified that Arely had "bruising and markings" on her neck, "bruising and abrasions" on her face, and "numerous burst blood vessels and brain swelling."

<p>San Jose Police Department</p> Rene Trigueros Hernandez

San Jose Police Department

Rene Trigueros Hernandez

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The outlet reported that Jorden recalled Arely having "injuries in her mouth indicating that she had severely bit her tongue and had marks on her gumline from being violently shaken."

Jorden also revealed that Arely had "a tear in her aorta on the right side of her heart" and that all her injuries were consistent "with one being smothered."

<p>San Jose Police Department</p> Rene Aaron Hernandez Santos

San Jose Police Department

Rene Aaron Hernandez Santos

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"I can't think of a situation where smothering could be considered accidental," said Jorden, per the outlet.

If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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