Police in Ho Chi Minh City have arrested four people who admitted to strangling a mentally ill teenager to death during a resurrection ritual that his mother orchestrated to "bring out the god inside him".
Huynh Son Vy, 15, died at his family’s apartment in District 5 early in the morning of February 19.
Two men and two women, aged between 31 and 55 years old, have been arrested for his death.
Their relationships to the victim have not been disclosed.
The mother, Huynh Lan Thao, 41, has not been arrested.
Police said at first the family reported to authorities that the boy died after a slip and fall accident in the toilet.
Officials however found suspicious marks on his neck. They refused to grant a death certificate and informed the police.
The four suspects later said that Vy tied around his own neck a cloth string of around three meters. Then he asked them to pull the string to strangle him, in front of his mother.
They listened to him but stopped once the boy was out of breath and collapsed.
But the mother asked them to continue strangling him, saying he would “live again.”
They followed her instruction, killed the teenager, then put his body on a bed and prayed for his resurrection.
After waiting for a while, they decided to arrange a funeral service, which required a death certificate.
"A god entered his body"
Neighbors said Thao moved to the area with her son a few months ago and set up her apartment like a temple.
Her son Vy was dressed like a monk, they said.
Thao told Tien Phong newspaper that Vy was not killed, but a god took him away.
She said Vy was clinically depressed after his grandfather died.
She took him to various mental hospitals but he did not improve, so she turned to spiritual comfort, bringing him to temples and praying for gods to protect him.
She believed that at some point, a god had entered his body and she followed whatever he said, including turning her house into a temple.
“As he lent his body to the god, he got better.”
She said the strangling was a ritual to make him better.
Ho Chi Minh City lawyer Le Quang Vu said the four people directly strangling Vy and his mother can all be charged with murder because they knew he could die.
But they might receive reduced punishments as superstition is involved, he said.
If convicted, they could face prison sentences of seven to 15 years.