Some people believe in demons, and that if one possesses a human body it should be expelled to prevent it from causing harm to the host, as well as the public.
An Arizona man felt that way when he performed an exorcism on his 6-year-old son. The man was giving the boy a bath and said he started acting strangely. He told authorities that the boy was having “an unnatural fit of rage” and that he had been behaving as if there was a demon inside of him earlier that week.
Fearing for the boy’s safety, the man turned on the hot water in the bathtub and allegedly held his head under the tap for 5 to 10 minutes. Another child was in the tub at the time, and left crying.
The boy’s adoptive mother heard gurgling sounds coming from the bathroom and tried to enter, but the door was locked. When she was finally able to get in, she saw what the man was doing and yelled at him to stop.
After taking the child out of the tub, the man attempted CPR, and the woman called the police. When law enforcement arrived at the scene, they found the child naked and unresponsive in a back bedroom. The criminal complaint alleges that the man held his hands up and said he did it but it needed to be done.
Defining First-Degree Murder Charges in Arizona
The man has been charged with first-degree murder.
In Arizona, a person commits first-degree murder if they:
- Knowingly or intentionally engage in conduct that will cause someone else’s death;
- Commit a specific offense that results in another person’s death; or
- Knowingly or intentionally participate in action that will cause a law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty
Because the man’s exorcism involved putting the safety and life of a child at risk, his actions would fall under the second subsection of ARS § 13-1105. The specific death-causing offense he allegedly committed was child abuse as defined in section 13-3623. A person violates this law when they engage in behavior that would cause serious physical injury or death to a child. Regardless of whether their actions were done intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently, if death resulted, they could be charged with first-degree murder as opposed to child abuse.
First-degree murder is a class 1 felony. A conviction could result in a lifetime prison sentence or the death penalty.
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