Pastor Aracely Meza held the dead toddler in her arms and spoke into a microphone. "Wake up and rise right now," she said in Spanish in 2015, surrounded by a crowd of congregants. "Right now."
The Pastor was performing a resurrection ceremony for the child, after she had ordered a 21-day fast to exorcise a demon.
A video captured the sickening scene, with Meza holding the child and rubbing his head with oil, after he died on March 22, 2015. The boy is frail and emaciated, and his clothes hang from his body.
Jurors found Meza, 52, guilty of felony injury to a child causing serious bodily injury, and she'll serve 99 years in prison. She was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.
Meza and her husband Daniel Meza, ran a church out of a house called the Iglesia Internacional Jesus es el Rey, in Balch Springs, near Dallas. Several adults and children were living with the couple around the time the boy died, according to the Washington Post.
Meza controlled the congregation and told them she was a prophet. She said the boy, Benjamin, was possessed by a demon of manipulation. She separated parents from their children, even Benjamin when he was being breastfed.
She told those who questioned her that they were questioning God. One woman said she felt like she was in a trance while she lived in the house, and that Meza used distorted scripture and brainwashing.
At the trial, jurors watched videos of the starving toddler being held up a prayed over by Meza. In one video, the child falls on the kitchen floor and Meza puts him over her knee and pulls down his pants, spanking him repeatedly as he cries.
"I thought that God would wake him up," she said in court, according to the Dallas Morning News. She also said she was praying and thinking that God would make a miracle.
One of the congregants testified in court that Benjamin's parents, Liliana and Zenon Aparicio, were afraid to report what was happening because they were illegal immigrants from Mexico. They've not been arrested, though they face charges. They took Benjamin back to Mexico to be buried.
[Photo: Dallas County Jail]