Child Tortured To Death During "Exorcism" Linked To Recent Kidnapping

Tara Sigler

San Jose, CA - Arely Naomi Proctor was only three years old when she died in unimaginable pain and fear on September 24, 2021. The official cause of death was asphyxiation, and the perpetrators were the girl's own family: her mother, uncle, and grandfather.

Now, this crime has been linked to another - the April 25 kidnapping of three-month-old Brandon Cuellar. The boy was rescued when police swarmed the Iglesia Evangelica Apostoles y Profetas, a supposedly Pentecostal church in the 1000 block of 2nd Street in San Jose.

That church is where Arely died, leading investigators to have deep concerns about the fate potentially intended for the kidnapped infant.

Family Claimed Daughter Was Possessed By Demons

Arely's mother, Claudia Hernandez, 25, was charged with assault on a child resulting in death. | Claudia Elisa Santos Hernandez

Claudia Hernandez, 25, later told police that in the days leading up to her daughter's death, 3-year-old Arely would wake up at night crying or screaming. Hernandez claims that she believed the child to be possessed by a demonic entity.

On September 24, Arely's mother and uncle drove her to Iglesia Apostoles y Profetas in San Jose. The child was strangled to death after 12 hours of torture in an "exorcism" led by her own grandfather, the church leader. Court documents describe multiple injuries on Arely's eyes, neck, and chest.

Hernandez admitted to police that no medical assistance was given to Arely before or after she died. The family waited 2 hours to call 911, and paramedics found the child's body on the floor in the church.

Church officials told the San Jose Mercury News that Arely died during a ceremony to "liberate her of evil spirits." Her mother has been charged with assault on a child resulting in death. On May 13, Arely's grandfather, Rene Trigueros Hernandez, as well as her uncle, Rene Aaron-Hernandez Santos, were booked into Santa Clara County Jail Thursday on suspicion of felony child abuse leading to death, according to police. 

A Baby Stolen in Broad Daylight

The suspect walked right into the family's apartment and abducted the infant
Lawandcrime | Lawandcrime

3-month-old Brandon Cuellar was kidnapped on April 25, taken while his grandmother was unloading groceries, according to officers in San Jose, California. After a 20-hour manhunt, the baby was found at the Iglesia Evangelica Apostoles y Profetas.

43-year-old Yesenia Ramirez and 28-year-old Jose Portillo were arrested. It was discovered that the pair had tried to abduct Brandon multiple times. Ramirez allegedly befriended Brandon's grandmother at church and became obsessed with the infant. Police found formula and diapers inside the alleged kidnapper's home.

What Was Going to Happen to Baby Brandon?

Baby Brandon's kidnappers
Red Bluff Daily | Red Bluff Daily News

Investigators state that multiple attempts were made to kidnap Brandon, leading police to question why Ramirez and her alleged accomplices were so desperate to take the child. Though church members describe Ramirez as "decent and hard-working," there was clearly something wrong.

Ramirez, Brandon Cuellar's mother, and his grandmother are all reportedly members of the church. With the death of the pastor's granddaughter and his recent arrest, police are asking more questions.

After Arely's Death, Was Brandon Next?

Arely's mother, uncle, and grandfather, who killed her last September
Am23 | Law & Crime

According to the San Jose Mercury News, San Jose police arrested Arely's uncle, 19-year-old Rene Hernandez-Santos, and her grandfather, 59-year-old Hernandez, on suspicion of child abuse causing death.

It's unclear whether Ramirez acted with the knowledge of the "pastor" of this church. Still, with the death of a child and a high-profile kidnapping centered around the Iglesia Evangelica Apostoles y Profetas, further investigation is sure to occur.