Phoenix police are investigating whether the mother of a 3-year-old girl should face charges after the girl was injured during an attempted exorcism Saturday.
The 19-year-old mother could face charges of aggravated assault or child abuse, said Sgt. Joel Tranter, a Phoenix police spokesman.
Ronald Marquez, the 3-year-old’s grandfather, attempted to perform an exorcism on the girl Saturday morning at a home near 28th Street and McDowell Road, according to authorities.
Marquez’s daughter, the child’s mother, was at the home while Marquez attempted the exorcism. When police entered the home, the mother was naked and bloody, holding a religious picture and chanting while Marquez held the child in a headlock, apparently trying to squeeze the demons out of her, police said.
Authorities said Marquez died after developing shortness of breath. Police touched him twice with a Taser and handcuffed him.
The girl was released from medical care and was taken into protective custody, Tranter said.
No members of the girl’s family have access to her right now, Tranter said.
The mother was admitted to a medical facility for treatment of extensive facial injuries, Tranter said. Details about the injuries were not released.
Near the front of the faded blue-gray Marquez house were a number of religious items, some commonly associated with the Catholic faith, including depictions of Jesus Christ wearing a crown of thorns and the Virgin Mary.
Bright flowers and a small framed photograph of a smiling man holding a small girl were left at the end of the driveway.
People who believe in the power of exorcisms “might believe that the demons caused the man’s death,” said Tisa Wenger, an Arizona State University professor of religious studies.
“There are growing numbers of conservative Catholics and evangelical or charismatic Protestants who perform and take part in exorcisms,” Wenger said. For someone to perform an exorcism “they would need to believe that there were demons that could actually possess a person.” The Rev. Christopher Fraser, a vicar for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, said exorcisms can only be performed by one priest in the diocese specifically chosen by the bishop. “This is very serious business,” he said. “We would never condone or encourage anybody to do what is called an exorcism.
“If an exorcism is to take place, it’s at the end of a long and involved process of investigation,” Fraser said.
Guidelines for the ritual were last revised by the Vatican in 1999, although the act includes some ancient prayers, he added.
An exorcism performed by a Catholic priest would likely include prayers, blessings, and holy water, according to Fraser, and would never become violent.
“If there was any contact, it would be a laying-on of hands,” he said.
Fraser also questioned whether Marquez was actually attempting the ritual, but authorities maintain witnesses referred to the act as an exorcism.
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