MANAGUA, Nicaragua — A Nicaraguan minister was arrested this past week after a woman died following an exorcism attempt that resulted in burns on more than 80 percent of her body.
Juan Gregorio Rocha Romero, 23, claims that Vilma Trujillo Garcia, 25, threw herself in the fire during the exorcism, but the woman’s husband asserts that it was Romero and others who stripped her naked and rolled her over into the flames.
“God told her He was going to remove that bad spirit from her, and asked us to start a fire because that’s where the spirit was going to be expelled,” Romero told reporters. “We were praying when we looked at her and saw she was on fire.”
Eneyda del Socorro Orozco Tellez, who was a part of the exorcism, made similar remarks.
“[God] told me to make a bonfire in the church patio, and said we should take Vilma and tie [her] up next to the flames and pray so that the devil left her sick body and threw itself on the fire,” he said.
However, Franklin Jarquin Hernandez contended that instead of the demon expelling itself into the fire, the evil spirit rather pushed Garcia into the blaze.
“She had her life companion and committed an error with another man, and she was claiming to be a Christian and fasting, and I’m sure God punished her in that way and she became possessed by the devil,” he told the outlet Vilma. “It was a bad spirit that pushed her and she fell on the fire.”
According to the Associated Press, some members had also thought that Garcia was possessed as she had allegedly attempted to attack people with a machete. But her husband now says that there was no demon and instead “what they did to her was witchcraft.” He also believes his wife had not committed adultery but was rather raped.
“I went to confront the man I was told was responsible, but had to leave him alone because he was carrying a rifle,” he said.
Members of Romero’s congregation reportedly kept Garcia in the church building for over a week in seeking to cast demons out of her. Then, they said God told them to build a fire and the evil spirit would throw itself into it.
Garcia’s sister found her burned body in a ravine following the incident, and while she was taken to the hospital for medical care, she died days later.
Police are now seeking murder charges against Romero and the four others who were also taken into custody.
“It is incredible that these things can happen today. There has to be a review by the authorities into all the different denominations and religions,” Pablo Cuevas, spokesman for Nicaragua’s Human Rights Commission, told La Prensa. “We can’t have things like this happening.”