David Edward Benes, 54, was arrested after attempting to perform an exorcism on his 80-year-old girlfriend. He has been charged with battery on a person 65 years or older, false imprisonment and tampering with a witness.
The woman, whose name has not been released, told authorities that Benes "held her down" in their Tampa home; he reportedly told her that he was trying to "exorcise her and get the devil out of her." She had scratches and bruises on her arms and other injuries as well.
Benes held her against her will, removing batteries from the home phones so she could not call for help. He also took away the woman's car keys and "dismantled" the garage door. Yet somehow someone was able to call for help and when authorities entered the home, they found the bruised woman and Benes, who was passed out on the couch.
He told authorities he could not remember what had happened, except that he was heavily intoxicated and had been beaten up by his girlfriend who started a fight "because she is crazy." He offered no explanation for his behavior or why he thought she needed an exorcism in the first place.
Benes remains in jail without bail and has a history of battery and violating a domestic violence injunction.
Exorcisms are intense religious practices that normally take place in the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis was accused of performing an exorcism during a meet-and-greet with a young man in a wheelchair in St. Peter's Square. After placing his hands on the man's head, he breathed deeply, shook, then slumped in his chair. Many called the interaction an exorcism, but the Vatican issued a statement to the contrary.
"Pope Francis didn't intend to perform any exorcism," the official statement read. "But as he often does for the sick or suffering, he simply intended to pray for someone who was suffering and was presented to him."
Only a priest authorized by a bishop can perform an exorcism and strict rules apply to the ritual. Priests are trained on how to safely perform the exorcism and are given a book to guide them through the process. According to the teaching, the one performing the exorcism must be "endowed with piety, knowledge, prudence, and integrity of life."