Stepfather found guilty of child abuse after a restaurant employee saved a boy with a note asking if he needed help
Jamiel Lynch and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN
(CNN) — A stepfather in Florida has been convicted of child abuse after a restaurant employee last year noticed concerning signs and used a surreptitious note to ask a boy if he needed help, the Orange County State Attorney’s Office announced Monday.
A jury found Timothy Lee Wilson, 36, guilty of two counts of false imprisonment of a child under the age of 13, three counts of aggravated child abuse with a weapon, four counts of aggravated child abuse, and one count of child neglect, a news release from the state attorney’s office said.
An investigation revealed the boy was kept away from his family in a hotel room used for storage, was regularly deprived of food and drink, and was subjected to military-style exercises and other abuses, according to the release. Officers recovered multiple items used as weapons against the child, the release added.
The 11-year-old boy and his family were at the Mrs. Potato restaurant in Orlando on January 1, 2021, when employee Flaviane Carvalho noticed he was sitting secluded from his parents and sibling, was being deprived of food and drink, and was bruised and scratched, CNN previously reported.
Carvalho stood behind the boy’s parents and held up a note asking the boy if he was OK. When the child nodded no, she wrote a second note that asked, “Do you need help,” she explained at a news conference.
After the boy nodded yes, Carvalho called her boss and then called 911.
After police arrived and questioned the child, Wilson was arrested at the restaurant, and the boy’s mother, Kristen Swann, was taken into custody days later, Orlando investigators said.
Swann is facing multiple felony abuse charges, including neglect of a child, aggravated abuse and failure to report child abuse, records from the Orange County Clerk’s Office show. She has pleaded not guilty. CNN is reaching out to Swann’s attorney for comment.
Wilson will be sentenced on August 19, 2022. CNN has reached out to his attorney for comment on the verdict.
What police found after the parents’ arrests
When Swann and Wilson were arrested, another 4-year-old child was removed from the home and was found to not have suffered any abuse, according to Orlando Police Detective Erin Lawler at the time of the arrests. Lawler said the 11-year-old boy is Swann’s child and the 4-year-old is Swann’s and Wilson’s child.
After Carvalho called 911, the boy was taken to a hospital where he was found to be 20 pounds underweight for his age, according to Lawler, who added that the boy also had bruises in various stages of healing across his entire body.
Investigators later found that the boy had been “tortured” and “maliciously punished,” the attorney’s office release said. Prosecutors said the boy had been hung upside down from a door by his neck and feet and on one occasion handcuffed to a dolly cart.
“What this child had gone through, it was torture,” Lawler said. “I’m a mother and seeing what that 11-year-old had to go through … It shocks your soul.”
“If Ms. Carvalho would not have said something when she saw it, that little boy would probably not be with us much longer,” she added.
“I was used like a tool from God to, to help him,” Carvalho told CNN affiliate WESH. “We need to pay attention for the ones that (are) in need, and step forward to do something to change the situation.”