Orlando Florida — A manager of a restaurant here noticed that a boy in a family of four sitting down on New Year’s Day had bruises on his face and arms. Police say the man at the table did not let the waiter order food.
Flavaine Carvalho decided to intervene.
She wrote a note that said, “Do you need help? OK” and held it up so the boy could see her, but not his parents. He shook his head no.
“A few minutes later I wrote another sign, asking him if he needed help. And that’s when he nodded, ‘yes,'” Carvalho said during a Thursday press conference.
CBS Orlando affiliate WKMG-TV reports Carvalho then called the owner of the Ms. Potato restaurant, Rafaela Cabede, who agreed that Carvalho should call the police.
The boy was found to have been the victim of severe child abuse, authorities said.
“You saved the boy’s life,” Cabede told Carvalho. “It makes us cry to think that someone can do this to a child.”
The 11-year-old told Orlando detectives he had ratchet straps tied around his ankles and neck and was hung upside down from a doorway. He also said he was beaten with a wooden broom and handcuffed and tied to a large moving cart.
“Abuse, I say lightly: it was torture,” Detective Erin Lawler said. “What this child went through, as I said, was nothing but torture – there is, there is no justification for that in any area.”
The boy also said he was unable to eat regularly as punishment, according to police.
The child’s stepfather, Timothy Wilson II, has been arrested on one count of third degree child abuse. Investigators said they did not arrest the two parents at the restaurant because, at the time, there was insufficient evidence.
A few days later, authorities arrested Wilson and Kristen Swann. Wilson was arrested on multiple counts of aggravated child abuse and child neglect.
Police said the boy’s mother admitted to knowing about the abuse. She was arrested on two counts of child neglect.
“He had all kinds of bruises at different stages, so it wasn’t like it was just one incident,” Lawler added. “It was continuous abuse and torture.”
The Orlando Police Department said it routinely encourages people who see something to say something.
“When a woman took this advice to heart, she saved a boy from dangerous abuse,” OPD said in a press release. “By saying something when she saw something, Mrs Carvalho showed courage and caring for a child she had never met before, and we are proud that someone like Mrs Carvalho lives and works. in our community.”
Another child was with the family on New Year’s Day, but officials said she showed no signs of abuse or malnutrition.
Investigators said the two children were removed from the home and are “doing very well and are very happy at the moment”.
Police say a trust account has been set up to support the children involved in the abuse case.