Flavaine Carvalho was at work on New Year’s Eve when she noticed something was wrong. The waitress sensed that something was not quite right with a child at one of her tables that day. The boy, 11, was seated at the table with the rest of his family at Mrs. Potato, the Orlando, Florida, restaurant at which Carvalho works, but while everyone else at the table had meals, the boy did not. Carvalho, herself a mother, thought something was wrong with this scenario and decided to investigate. She started by asking the boy’s stepfather if she could bring something for the boy to eat. Timothy Wilson II, the stepfather, said no, that the boy would eat when they returned home. As she was speaking to the stepfather, Carvalho noticed injuries on the boy. Rather than just the normal bumps and bruises a boy that age would have, this boy was also covered in scratches – something that seemed odd to Carvalho. She said she could clearly see scratches and bruises on his face, so she knew something was wrong.

She wanted to ask the boy if he was alright, but she knew that if he was in an abusive situation, doing so in front of his parents would be a bad idea. Carvalho got inventive, though, and wrote a simple but important note: “Do you need help? Ok.” In order to keep the parents from noticing her inquisition, Carvalho stood behind them and showed the note to the boy out of the parents’ line of sight. At first, the boy shook his head, indicating he needed no help. He then shook his head no a second time. Carvalho’s motherly instinct knew something was wrong, though, so she tried again. This time, the boy nodded. Carvalho immediately called the authorities, who arrested the boy’s stepfather and his mother, Kristen Swann. Later, when the police interviewed the boy, he first said that his injuries came from falling out of bed and wrestling with his stepfather. He later told the truth, though, and it came to light that the boy was a victim of both physical and mental abuse by his parents. In addition to being beaten by a wooden spoon, he was hit by other objects, restrained, and starved.

A police spokesperson said that he believes what the boy survived was a case of shocking torture. He said the boy testified that straps were tied around his ankles and neck, then he was hung from a door, upside down, and the straps were ratcheted tight. The boy also said he was regularly beaten with a wooden broom, handcuffed, and tied to a large, movable dolly. The boy told police that he was not allowed to eat on a regular basis and that food was withheld from him as a form of punishment. Swann, the boy’s mother said that she knew her husband was abusing her son, but she did not report the abuse or take her son to a doctor. Wilson, the boy’s stepfather, was charged with third-degree child abuse and multiple counts of aggravated child abuse and neglect. Swann, the boy’s mother, was also charged with two counts of child neglect.