The courts in Dallas sentenced a pastor to 99 years in prison on Friday for the death of a toddler from starvation. Aracely Meza has been convicted of causing serious bodily injury to a child when she tried to exorcise him.
Documents from the courts showed that the parents of two-year-old Benjamin Aparicio — Liliana and Zenon Aparicio — sought the help of the Iglesia Internacional Jesus es el Rey pastor since they believed that demons possessed their son. The toddler was not given food for three weeks on orders from Meza.
Meza also separated the parents from their son, though they lived in the same house in the pastor's commune in Balch Springs. They were not allowed to hold their son as well, while his alleged exorcism continued.
No one from the church community attempted to speak up even as they noticed that the boy grow thin and weak. Meza would always remind members of her church that questioning her methods meant that they were working for the devil. The boy's parents also couldn't report to the police because they were Mexican illegal immigrants.
Jurors watched a video of Aparicio's final days, as taken by one of the church members who became the prosecutor's witness. On the day of his death, Meza even spanked the toddler over and over when he wouldn't sit or kneel properly on the kitchen floor.
Meza defended that God was telling her how to drive the demons out of the 2-year-old. She would, however, also deprive Aparicio of food as a form of punishment when he didn't say grace or use the bathroom properly. The defendant's lawyers stated she's a "prisoner of her faith."
Pediatrician Dr. Suzanne Daikil told the jurors that the boy was "severely emaciated." Prosecutors argued that Aparicio's death was about control and not religion or faith.
The boy's parents are also facing charges, but authorities have yet to arrest them. The police believe they went back to Mexico to bury their son's body and have not returned to the United States where charges await them.