5 kids removed from home where boy died
Search on for body of 2-year-old, parents, believed to be in Mexico
By NAOMI MARTIN and JASMINE AGUILERA
Aracely Meza claimed to perform miracles. The Balch Springs pastor said on her website and to her neighbors that God had helped her heal the sick, return movement to a paralyzed
man and make her daughter
grow instantly taller — one leg at a time.
But on March 22, Meza would later admit to police, her supposed supernatural powers failed. In a ceremony, she tried unsuccessfully to resurrect a 2- year-old boy who died after she ordered food withheld from him for 25 days until he looked like an “alien” because he “had demons,” according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
The boy and his parents were among eight adults and six children who authorities said lived in Meza’s home-based church, Iglesia Internacional Jesus es el Rey, in the
12300 block of Duke Drive.
Five children, ages 1 to 13, from “several families” were moved from the home into foster care following Meza’s arrest, Texas Child Protective Services spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales said Wednesday.
The agency was not previously involved with the household and is assisting in the search for the boy’s body and the parents, Gonzales said.
The dead boy’s parents wrapped him in a blanket and took him to Mexico for burial, church members who lived in the house told police. On Wednesday, local police and Mexican authorities continued searching for the parents and the boy’s body.
Meza, 49, remains in the Balch Springs City Jail on a charge of injuring a child by omission of care. Her bail was set at $100,000.
Without the boy’s body and an autopsy to determine cause of death, it would be difficult but not impossible for prosecutors to bring homicide charges, said veteran defense attorney Robbie McClung, a former prosecutor.
“If a jury can’t tell how the child died, there are too many possibilities,” such as someone having poisoned the boy, to charge Meza or another defendant with killing him, McClung said.
The injury by omission of care charge that Meza faces is the “most conservative way to handle it,” McClung said, because of Meza’s statement.
Lt. Mark Maret, a spokesman for Balch Springs police, said authorities expect to make more arrests. An arrest warrant affidavit named 42-year-old Daniel Meza, husband of Aracely Meza, as a suspect, along with the dead child’s parents, Liliana and Zenon Aparicio, who are 28 and 31, respectively.
A video obtained by the media of the resurrection ceremony shows Aracely Meza holding the lifeless boy in her arms as she pleads loudly into a microphone. Children look on.
“In the name of Jesus, I’m utilizing this oil to try to get him back to life,” she says in Spanish. After applying oil to his head, she says it’s time for him to wake up, “right now.”
Aracely Meza later told police she believed that was the day God was going to wake up the boy, the arrest warrant says.
It’s not clear why church members believed the boy was possessed by demons, but Meza was quoted in the police records as saying, “Look how the devil has him,” on the day before he died as his head was rolling back, according to a witness.
That day, another witness told police, the boy looked “frail and weak,” and he kept falling on the floor and hitting his head. But the witness said she was afraid to intervene because of instructions not to help the boy because of his demons.
After the adults quit withholding food, the boy was still sometimes denied meals as punishment. He died several weeks later, according to the affidavit.
Meza told police that if the boy “acted up and would not say ‘amen’ during feeding, [he] would be denied food.” Another church member told police that there were times when the child was fed only once a day as punishment for not changing himself in the restroom.
Police said Meza admitted in a videotaped interview that she watched the boy go from “plump” to “skin and bones” and didn’t intervene with medical attention or food because she believed God would heal him.