WARNING: This story contains graphic details that some may find disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.
An Arizona man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 6-year-old son, whom authorities say was forced to swallow piping hot water during an attempted exorcism on a reservation outside Tucson.
Pablo Martinez, 31, claimed he saw “a demon” inside his son and was trying to drive it out, according to court documents reviewed by multiple news outlets.
Federal authorities say the suspect held the boy under the bathtub faucet while running the hot water for up to 10 minutes.
The incident happened on Sept. 26 at the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s reservation outside of Tucson, Az., according to the criminal complaint.
Romelia Martinez, Pablo’s wife and the boy’s adopted mother, told investigators that the boy “had been acting demonic” for about a week, local station KVOA reports.
She said Pablo volunteered to give the boy a bath last Thursday, according to the criminal complaint. However, she became alarmed when she heard gurgling sounds from behind the locked door. She unlocked the door and saw the suspect holding the child under the water. He told her he “had to do it” because the boy had gone into an “unnatural fit of rage,” according to the criminal complaint.
Romelia Martinez called 911 while Pablo poured cold water on the boy and tried to revive him through CPR, court documents say.
First responders found the child naked on a bed with burns over 15 per cent of his body, including his forearms, elbows and head.
The Pascua Yaqui Police Department and the FBI are conducting a joint investigation into the case, according to a statement from the tribe provided to CNN.
A spokesperson for Lynn Urquides Elementary School in Tucson confirmed that the victim was a student there.
“It is with deep regret and sadness that I inform you of the death of one of our students,” the school said in a statement to NBC News. “Our counselors are available to help staff and any student who is struggling with death or other issues that may surface … Our sincerest condolences go out to the family.”
Pablo Martinez’s lawyer, Michael Areinoff, has not yet commented on the case, according to ABC News and the Associated Press.
Martinez is scheduled for a detention hearing on Tuesday.
—With files from The Associated Press