Man dies after faith healer injects him with substance

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The Associated Press, Oct. 30, 2002

An Orange County man with a persistent rash sought the help of a faith healer and died after he was injected with an unknown substance, police said.

Roberto Caceras, 54, of Santa Ana went into convulsions and was taken to Valley Presbyterian Hospital, where he died Monday, investigators said.

The healer, Reina Isabel Chavarria, 48, and her assistant, Margarita Montes, 28, were arrested and booked for investigation of involuntary manslaughter. Montes allegedly injected Caceras with the substance, which was being analyzed by the coroner’s office.

Caceres and his wife traveled to Chavarria’s suburban Van Nuys home after learning of her practice through Spanish-language newspapers and talking with others who had sought out her services, police said. Four doctors had been unable to control the man’s rash.

“This should be a warning for people to have more confidence in traditional medicine instead of being treated by somebody rubbing an egg on their back or giving them herbs or ointments,” homicide Detective Al Aldaz said. “The person receiving these treatments had no idea of where they got this medicine or even if it’s clean.”

Chavarria’s home included a waiting room, complete with a soda vending machine, as well as a treatment room featuring candles, religious figurines and what appeared to be a shrine made up of voodoo dolls, investigators said.

A dog slept on the treatment table that was used to give injections, Aldaz said.

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This post was last updated: Dec. 16, 2016