Assemblies of God pastor Juan Rocha stands accused of starving, beating, and burning a woman to death because he believed she was possessed by the devil.
A Nicaraguan woman who was burned to death in an exorcism that caused worldwide shock was starved and beaten in the week before her killing, witnesses told a court on Wednesday.
Evangelical pastor Juan Rocha and four followers are accused of murdering Vilma Trujillo, a 25-year-old mother of two, because they believed she was possessed by the devil.
On the second day of their trial, which is being carried live on Nicaraguan television, Trujillo’s relatives told the court how Rocha had his followers bound her, beat her, and refused her food, water and visitors.
“He told us not to feel any love for her, because that was just the devil, that she had to be burned until only her head was left,” the victim’s cousin Roberto Trujillo told the court in the capital, Managua.
“They wouldn’t let me near her. Pastor Juan Rocha told us not to pay any attention to her because she was possessed by a demon,” said her sister Marlene, who told the court of seeing Trujillo tied to a hammock.
Trujillo was killed in a grisly week-long rite from February 15 to 21 in the isolated village of El Cortezal in northeastern Nicaragua.
Witnesses said she was stripped naked and thrown on a pile of wood that was set alight.
Rocha has reportedly denied that version, saying the woman herself leaped at the fire and was suspended aloft by a malign spirit in her.
Trujillo’s father said Rocha had forbidden him to see his daughter during the ritual.
When he and her cousin went to get her in the small chapel where she was kept, they found her naked and horribly burned after five hours over the fire, they said.
May 2,2017, Rocha and four church members were found guilty of homicide. The Oklahoman reports:
An evangelical pastor and four of his congregants have been found guilty in the death of a 25-year-old woman who was thrown into a fire to drive “demons” from her body.
In a decision handed down late Tuesday, a five-member jury found pastor Juan Gregorio Rocha Romero and the other four guilty of homicide in the death of Vilma Trujillo Garcia. She suffered burns over 80 percent of her body before dying in February.
Judge Alfredo Silva Chamorro noted there were aggravating circumstances, because the woman was tied to a tree trunk and left in the fire for five hours.
Sentencing has been set for May 9. Prosecutors are seeking sentences of up to 36 years in prison, although Nicaragua’s maximum sentence is 30 years.
Rocha Romero had denied wrongdoing, telling the newspaper La Prensa that the woman fell into the fire without anyone pushing her and a demon exited her body