In a search of notable Southern California exorcisms, one thing is clear: the trend of crimes, including murder, under the guise of fighting demons began two years after William Peter Blatty’s novel, “The Exorcist” came out, 1973, when the film adaptation also came out.
Of course, there are many other examples of faith based crimes and people killing in the name of their own religion, but ascribing these acts to the ancient practice of exorcism appears to have been spurned by pop culture itself.
Here’s a quick survey of four notorious “exorcisms” culled from the Los Angeles Times archives that came on the heels of when the concept became mainstream:
In August, 1973 in Barstow, the parents of Wesley Parker, age 11, withdrew his supply of insulin believing that a demon was the cause of his diabetes, and using medication to help the boy would show a lack of faith in God. A pastor with the Assembly of God Church recalled visiting the home and witnessing the parents placing hands on Wesley as he was “writing and twisting” in pain. They insisted the parents seek medical help for the boy, but were refused, and believed only prayer would out the demon.
After several psychotherapy sessions, 22 year-old Beatriz Morales revealed several “repressed memories” from over a decade prior at their home in Orange County: Sometime between 1977 and 1979, she recalled hearing her parents yelling about demons while inside the bathroom with her 5 year old sister, Lisa. When she walked in after, she saw Lisa floating in the tub, upside down. Afterwards, she drove with her family to Mexico, where her father buried Lisa on a beach. For years after, her parents contended that they had given up Lisa for adoption. The jury in a 1992 heard a different story; they believed Lisa had become possessed with evil spirits, and had drowned her during a home exorcism. While no body was ever found and the evidence was largely composed of verbal testimony from the now adult sisters, the jury found the parents guilty of second degree murder. The father was sentenced to 30 years in prison, the mother 6.
Two weeks before Halloween in 1983, a San Diego paramedic responded to a call for a woman having a seizure by forgoing medical attention and instead kneeled beside her, bible in hand, and prayed to cast the demons from her body. The paramedic, who had a clean 5 year record prior, resigned before he could be fired. The woman recovered and did not require transport to the hospital.
In September 1985, a 63-year-old Stockton man kidnapped a 23 year old woman and her twin children, claiming she was possessed by evil spirits, and forced her to have sex with him, claiming it was part of an exorcism.
A South Korean woman was beaten to death in Century City in 1996 during an exorcism ritual she allegedly consented to. The exorcist in this case was sentenced to four years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.
The website What’s the Harm About… has tracked over one thousand people other people who have been hurt by exorcisms.
DAVID A AVILA TIMES,STAFF WRITER, 1992, Oct 20. Parents Convicted of Killing Daughter, 5. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File), 2. ISSN 04583035.
Anonymous, 1974, Jun 13. DIED AS PARENTS PRAYED. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File), 3. ISSN 04583035.
DAVIDSON, K., 1983, Nov 15. Paramedic’s ‘Exorcism’ Costs Him His Position. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File), 2-sd_a1. ISSN 04583035.
Anonymous, 1985, Sep 23. The Region. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File), 1-a2. ISSN 04583035.