A local resident from Humboldt County, California, said that he was "sent by God" to save an 11-year-old girl on Friday who was stripped naked and almost choked and bitten to death by her mother in an exorcism.
Humboldt County Sheriff's Office said on Friday that the incident took place at Centerville beach near Ferndale, going by the description of a 911 call.
"The mother had stripped the child naked and was shoving handfuls of sand in the child's eyes and into the child's mouth. The mother stated she was trying to remove the Demons from the child," the press release described.
"The mother, 45 year old Kimberly Felder of Ferndale, continued the assault by viciously striking, biting, and choking the child. This assault was being witnessed by a crowd of approximately 10 to 12 people," the report added.
"When local citizen John Marciel arrived on scene, he immediately stepped in and attempted to restrain Felder and prevent further assault to the child."
Marciel apparently managed to bring Felder to the ground, before a sheriff's deputy arrived and placed the mother in handcuffs.
The child, who wasn't named, reportedly sustained "severe damage to her right ear" during the attack, and was sent to a hospital for treatment.
David G. McAfee, a journalist and author who has written books on atheism, wrote in a blog for The Friendly Atheist on Saturday that he tracked down Marciel to ask him about his life-saving actions.
Marciel revealed that he believes in God, but said that despite the mother's words, what she was really trying to do was kill her child.
"If one believes in God, the demons are there also, but there are actions that happened on that beach that I will not say until or if I have to go to court," the man said.
"The things that lady was saying did not add up for it to be an exorcism or even a belief. Plain and simple, she was trying to kill that little girl."
The man said that to his knowledge, from everything that he was taught in Sunday School and what his pastor taught him, the mother's actions were not a real exorcism.
"No holy water, no crosses, no religious relics were present, and I feel in my heart God sent me there for a reason and it might have been that. Hopefully I passed in the Lord's eyes," Marciel stated.
Felder was taken to Humboldt County Correctional Facility and charged with attempted homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, felony child abuse, and aggravated mayhem.
The sheriff's office pointed out that if it wasn't for Marciel's actions, the child "would have been killed by her mother."
Marciel is being recommended to be recognized with the Red Cross Life Saving Award for his assistance.