A Northern California woman was in custody Sunday on suspicion of beating, biting and choking her 11-year-old daughter in an attempt to perform an exorcism on the child, authorities said.
Kimberly Felder, 45, stripped her daughter naked and shoved sand into her mouth and into her eyes before a witness tried to stop the attack at a secluded beach in Ferndale, a North Coast town about 115 miles north of San Francisco on Friday, the Humboldt County Sheriff's office said.
The witness, John Marciel, said Felder told him she was trying to remove demons from her daughter and continued to hit the girl's head with a piece of driftwood while he tried to restrain her. He said he stayed on the phone with 911 operators as he tried to wrestle Felder to the ground. Deputies who arrived to the scene managed to separate Felder from her daughter and place her in handcuffs.
"She questioned me about my faith," Marciel told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Felder was arrested for investigation of attempted homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, child abuse and aggravated mayhem.
The girl was taken to the hospital with multiple injuries, including severe damage to her right ear. She will be placed in protective child custody, sheriff's Sgt. Greg Allen said.
Authorities said if Marciel hadn't intervened, it was very likely the girl would have been killed by her mother.
Marciel said he decided to take some out-of-town visitors to the beach before heading to his son's high school graduation. He said he was glad he got there to stop the attack.
"The worst thing was when we got the child away and into the sheriff's truck, she said people drove by and nobody stopped," Marciel said.
"When you see something like this, it shakes your foundation and faith in people," he said.
Investigators planned to forward the case to prosecutors on Monday, Allen said.
He said Felder took a toxicology test to determine whether she was under the influence of drugs, but the results have not returned yet.