The Devil and Mr. Hernandez

A man possessed, plumber turned amateur exorcist Paul Hernandez wants to get the Hell out of Phoenix.

As evidence of this Satanic attack, Beltran offers a photo taken at her home during this period. The entire roll of film -- most of it containing pictures of Beltran's family -- looks normal, except for two photos of Beltran by herself. Both of these photos feature billowy white figures in the frame. While the white figures could easily be the result of film leakage, to Beltran they represent proof of demonic presence.

In the summer of 1999, Hernandez was driving home after seeing a movie, when he impulsively decided to pull into the parking lot of Chico's, a popular south Phoenix bar. Inside the bar, he struck up a conversation with Beltran, and she told him about her problems. He offered to perform an exorcism at her house.

The exorcism itself was a simple one, but Hernandez contends that when he chased the evil spirit out of Beltran's house, it followed him and cursed him with an eye infection. But because he's suspicious of most doctors -- who inevitably tell him they can find no cause for the pain he's describing -- he resisted seeing an eye specialist until he found one who moonlights as a Catholic deacon.

Paolo Vescia
Cage Keller (left) is a former juvenile delinquent who says Hernandez rescued him from demonic voices that urged him to commit violent acts.
Paolo Vescia
Cage Keller (left) is a former juvenile delinquent who says Hernandez rescued him from demonic voices that urged him to commit violent acts.

Beltran says her disturbing nocturnal episodes ended after Hernandez's exorcism. But Hernandez isn't satisfied. During one of his periodic post-exorcism consultations, he asks Beltran if she's been going to church every Sunday. "No," she responds sheepishly.

In a calm but stern voice, he tells Beltran: "You need to go. You need the sacramentals to help keep evil away."

Beltran nods like a dutiful child.

Liam Tierney doesn't strike you as someone who believes in the supernatural.

The 32-year-old Tierney has the kind of no-nonsense, working-class demeanor you'd expect from a former New York cop who's spent the last nine years as a contract worker for the pipefitters union.

Tierney, a New York native, left the NYPD in December 1991, after two and a half years on the force. That Christmas, he visited his parents in Phoenix, and impulsively decided to settle in the Valley. While serving a pipefitters apprenticeship, he met Hernandez, by then an established union worker.

"I was new to how things worked out here, so they partnered me up with him," recalls Tierney, who with his blond ponytail looks like a longhaired Kiefer Sutherland. "He's a sharp guy, and a hard worker. We'd start at 6 a.m., and he was sweating bullets by 6:15."

They'd carpool together sometimes, and Hernandez would open up to Tierney about his exorcism experiences. "A lot of people thought he was crazy," recalls Tierney, a former Catholic altar boy. Tierney himself didn't know what to think about these stories, but his lingering Irish-Catholic reverence for the church made him somewhat receptive to the concept of demon purging.

By 1997, Tierney and Hernandez rarely saw each other anymore. During this period, a friend of Tierney's wife asked for a favor. The friend had a teenage girl as a houseguest, and they weren't getting along with each other. The friend wondered if Tierney and his wife could put the girl up for a week or so.

The girl had a dark, goth vibe about her, and Tierney was immediately shaken when he noticed that she had vampire tattoos on her neck, complete with fake blood dripping down. For reasons that he still doesn't understand, the first thing she did after entering his home was to take four plaster floor tiles she'd brought with her, and place them on the walls.

"She was a very weird girl," Tierney recalls. "She had a lot of issues. She was a compulsive liar. I think she had some demonic presence, because the last time I saw her, I talked to her about God, and she started saying the Lord's Prayer in a mocking way. Then she ran off and I never saw her again."

Tierney believes the girl left behind an evil spirit.

"A day or two after she left, out of the corner of my eye, it looked like someone threw a black tee shirt from the bedroom to the bathroom, but no one was there but me and my wife. I went into the bathroom and didn't see anything. Then I saw it move into the kitchen.

"Shortly after that, the phone rang, and it was Paul. I hadn't talked to him for a while. He asked, 'What's going on?' I told him what I'd seen. He said, 'Come pick me up and I'll take a look at it.' So he came over, went up to a walk-in closet. He saw this big mess on the floor and said, 'I think you have a problem, let's do an exorcism,' just like saying, 'Let's go to a ballgame.' That's how blatant he was."

Hernandez reached into a bag and pulled out a prayer book and some holy water. After sprinkling holy water around the house, he told Tierney, "We'll wait a couple of minutes and see if things start bumping around."

Tierney says less than five minutes passed before the girl's floor tiles began flying off the walls as if they'd been yanked with extreme force. Toiletries began flying off the counter of the bathroom. Tierney stood in stunned silence, while his wife jumped on the couch and screamed hysterically. For Hernandez, it was just another day at the office.

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