A Texas jury this week found a woman guilty of felony injury to a child causing serious bodily injury in connection with her role in the 2015 death by starvation of a Dallas toddler.
According to Fox News, Aracely Meza, 52, led 2-year-old Benjamin Aparicio’s parents to believe their son was possessed by a demon.
The pastor reportedly convinced them that a severe fast was the only way to rid him of the affliction. Prosecutors say she starved the boy for three weeks until he died.
Reports indicate the boy and his parents lived as part of a commune established on Meza’s property.
Authorities became involved in the case when members of a church in the Dallas area reported what was described as a resurrection ceremony meant to bring the child back to life.
As the Dallas News reported, video of that ceremony was one of several clips shown to jurors in an attempt to demonstrate the type of treatment the victim received, as well as the control prosecutors say she wielded over her congregation.
The video recorded in March 2015 reportedly revealed Aparicio’s emaciated body in Meza’s hands as she prayed for his resurrection during a ceremony that lasted for hours.
Among the other footage shown to jurors during the trial was video recorded the day of the victim’s death, shortly after he had fallen to the floor.
Meza can reportedly be seen pulling down the toddler’s pants and spanking him repeatedly, causing him to cry.
She was sentenced to 99 years behind bars and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.