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Over the past few weeks, a Eureka man has been praised for single-handedly stopping a mother who witnesses and authorities say was violently attacking her little girl at Centerville Beach in Ferndale.

Thursday afternoon the praise continued as the man — John Marciel — received one of Humboldt County’s top honors from the Sheriff’s Office — a Citizen’s Distinguished Service Award and medal. It’s an honor that’s not given out frequently.

“You have to do life saving measures, to intervene and help someone,” said Sheriff William Honsal. “And people have been nominated several times in the last couple of years but no one has received the award. But as soon as I heard of his heroic actions I knew we had to do something.”

On the morning of June 16, Marciel and his family were taking a trip to Centerville Beach for his son’s high school graduation. But that day, the entire family experienced something shocking. Reportedly a woman, later identified as Kimberly Felder, was trying to perform an exorcism on her 11-year-old daughter and attempted to cast out demons with various assaults.

Marciel says “I’ve seen some crazy things in my life but nothing like this. Nothing like this.”

Marciel didn’t think twice and immediately intervened in the dangerous situation. He was able to restrain the woman despite struggles until sheriff’s deputies arrived. Marciel then tended to the child who sustained multiple injuries. 

“I didn’t know if she had any weapons on her, but I didn’t care, the girl was being hurt and abused so I had to get over there,” he says. “And I didn’t care about my well being. I cared about my family’s and that little girl’s well being.”

However, Marciel believes he was somehow drawn to the beach at exactly that time, and was meant to save the little girl.

He says his family had never even been to that beach together before, and that morning something inside was telling him to just go and not wait until the afternoon, which was the original plan. He says the whole situation has really restored his faith.

Marciel says following the incident he was overwhelmed with media, phone calls and continuous recognition, and now receiving an award, when he feels all he was doing was the right thing. But he does hope this story will inspire others to help those in need.

Sheriff Honsal says it’s rare to see a citizen take control of a dangerous situation involving strangers, especially something this bizarre. First District Supervisor Rex Bohn also commended Marciel on his heroism.

Marciel is a married proud father of four and credits his family for continuously being his support system.

The little girl is now healing and staying with her sisters at a relative’s house out of the area.

Marciel says, “I hope the best for her, I want the world for her and I hope this doesn’t hinder her in anyway or any fashion. “