MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — An evangelical pastor and four of his congregants have been found guilty in the death of a 25-year-old woman who was thrown into a fire to drive “demons” from her body.
In a decision handed down late Tuesday, a five-member jury found pastor Juan Gregorio Rocha Romero and the other four guilty of homicide in the death of Vilma Trujillo Garcia. She suffered burns over 80 percent of her body before dying in February.
Judge Alfredo Silva Chamorro noted there were aggravating circumstances, because the woman was tied to a tree trunk and left in the fire for five hours.
Sentencing has been set for May 9. Prosecutors are seeking sentences of up to 36 years in prison, although Nicaragua’s maximum sentence is 30 years.
Rocha Romero had denied wrongdoing, telling the newspaper La Prensa that the woman fell into the fire without anyone pushing her and a demon exited her body.
The victim was a mother of two who lived in the impoverished mining township of Rosita, about 300 miles (480 kilometers) northeast of Managua.
Rocha Romero reportedly belonged to the Assemblies of God, but the church issued a statement denying that the pastor was one of its leaders.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU