A pastor at a church in a Texas suburb has been accused of starving a two-year-old boy to death because she believed he was possessed by demons. Church members then attempted to “resurrect” the child before taking his body to Mexico for burial. The child’s mother did not report the death; the police were reportedly told about the resurrection ritual by an anonymous tipster.
The Spanish-speaking Pentacostal church is operated out of a house in Balch Springs, Texas, a suburb of Dallas; it appears to have variously gone by the name Iglesia Congregacional Pueblo De Dios (the Congregational Church of the People of God) and, currently, Iglesia Internacional Jesus es El Rey (the International Church Jesus is the King). The pastors are Aracely and Daniel Meza, a married couple; Aracely also describes herself on the church’s website as a “prophet.”
According to the Dallas Morning News, Meza, 49, was arrested Monday and charged with “injury to a child causing serious bodily injury by omission” in connection with the child’s death. The newspaper reports that several people told police the boy, whom the church believed to be possessed by demons, had been starved for 25 days before he died on March 22; a church member who tried to feed him was reportedly “scolded” and prevented from doing so by others. On the morning of March 22, Meza and three other people held a resurrection ceremony. According to the DMN, Meza told police that she thought God, with whom she believed she could communicate directly, was going to “wake” the boy.
Police have also obtained a video of the ceremony, vieweable at the DMN’s website, which shows a woman praying and holding the boy in her arms. (The boy’s face has been obscured.) The women can be heard speaking in tongues and shouting, in Spanish, “In the name of Jesus, the all powerful” and, “Get up now! Right now!”
The resurrection attempt failed, and the next day Meza, the boy’s parents, and others went to Mexico to bury the child. No one reported the child’s death. The anonymous tipster called police March 26.
The church’s website is still online for now; it shows pictures of fairly typical Pentecostal healing rituals: Meza holding her hands against a weeping woman’s forehead, apparently “healing” her by touch, people lying on the floor, and people being baptized in a small portable swimming pool. There are frequent references to healing and to miracles, and pictures of the many children of the congregation. No one else has been arrested as of today, and we don’t know yet who the other three suspects are.
Aracely Meza with young congregants at the church. Image via Facebook/Iglesia Internacional Jesus es el Rey