Arizona man accused of killing young son in exorcism attempt

A 6-year-old boy died after his father forced him to swallow hot water from a bathtub as part of an attempted exorcism in Arizona, U.S. officials said in court documents accusing the father of murder.

Pablo Martinez told investigators that he was trying to cast a demon out of the boy and held him under water for at least five minutes, according to the criminal complaint.

Martinez was arrested following the Sept. 26 death at the family’s home on the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s reservation near Tucson. He was scheduled for a detention hearing Tuesday. His lawyer, Michael Areinoff, had no immediate comment about the case.

The documents did not list a cause of death for the boy, who was identified only by initials. Doctors said he had burns on his head, elbows and forearms.

Investigators who went to the home found Martinez and the boy’s adoptive mother Romelia Martinez outside, where Pablo Martinez raised his hands and said, “I did it,” the documents state.

Emergency workers found the boy naked on a bed, wrapped him in a towel and took him to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Romelia Martinez has not been charged in the case. She told police and FBI investigators that her husband was bathing the boy and another child when she heard gurgling, went in the bathroom and saw the father holding the boy under a faucet.

She also told investigators she screamed at her husband to stop then called a pastor and 911. She said her husband tried to perform CPR on the boy and poured cold water on him.

Pablo Martinez told authorities he had seen “a demon inside” the boy and was determined to get it out, the documents said.

Federal authorities investigate homicides on Native American reservations when suspects, victims or both are members of federally recognized tribes. Romelia Martinez is a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. The boy also belonged.


Associated Press writer Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff, Arizona, contributed to this report.