A suburban Dallas pastor has been charged in connection with the death of a 2-year-old child who was allegedly starved as part of a religious ritual to rid him of demons, authorities said on Wednesday.
Araceli Meza, 49, pastor of a non-denominational Christian church in Balch Springs, is charged with causing serious injury to a child. Police said the child died in the home that housed her small church and where four families lived.
They added that according to witnesses, the boy was given only water for 25 days.
“We believe there could be multiple suspects, including the parents, but we don’t know who is a suspect and who is a witness until we interview everyone,” Balch Springs Police Lieutenant Mark Maret said.
Police said witnesses told them the boy’s body was taken to Mexico by his parents, who have not returned to the United States.
Meza, who is being held on $100,000 bail, declined to be interviewed. An attorney has not been appointed.
Police were led to the house on March 26 by an anonymous tip, four days after witnesses said the boy died. According to arrest documents, witnesses said Meza tried to resurrect the child, who was later wrapped in a blanket and taken to Mexico.
The documents said that a church member told police she tried to give the child food and was scolded for interfering with the ritual to end the demonic possession.
Meza and her husband were church leaders and accompanied the boy’s parents to Mexico with his body, witnesses were quoted as saying in the documents.