ORLANDO, Fla. – An observant manager at an Orlando restaurant helped rescue a boy who police say was the victim of severe child abuse, including being suspended upside down from a door, by secretly holding a sign that only the child could read.
Orlando police said Flavaine Carvalho was working on New Year’s Day at Mrs. Potato restaurant on South Kirkman Road when a family of four sat down at a table.
According to police, the man did not allow the 11-year-old boy to order any food, and Carvalho noticed the child had bruises on his face and arms.
Carvalho wrote a note that said, “Do you need help? OK” and held it up to the boy while standing behind the man so he couldn’t see it, police said.
“I wrote another sign, asking him if he needs help. And this is when he nodded, yes,” Carvalho said.
Carvalho then called the owner of the restaurant who agreed she should call police.
“You saved the boy’s life,” the business owner told Carvalho. “It brings us to tears to think that someone can do that to a child.”
In an interview with Orlando police detectives, the boy recounted incidents of mistreatment, saying he had ratchet straps tied around his ankles and neck and was hung upside down from a door, officials said. According to police, the boy also said he had been struck with a wooden broom and handcuffed and tied to a large moving dolly.
“Abuse I say lightly, it was torture,” detective Erin Lawler said. “What this child had gone through, like I said, was just torture there’s, there’s no justification for it in any realm.”
The boy also said he didn’t get to eat on a regular basis as a form of punishment, according to police.
The child’s stepfather, Timothy Wilson II was arrested on one count of third-degree child abuse. Investigators said they were unable to arrest both parents at the restaurant because, at the time, there wasn’t enough evidence.
Days later, authorities arrested both Wison 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 sorts of different stages of bruising so it wasn’t like it was just one incident,” Lawler added. “It was ongoing abuse and torture.”
The Orlando Police Department said it regularly encourages people who see something to say something.
“When one woman took that advice to heart, she rescued a boy from some dangerous abuse,” OPD said in a news release. “By saying something when she saw something, Ms. Carvalho displayed courage and care for a child she had never even met before, and we’re proud someone like Ms. Carvalho lives and works in our community.”
Another child was with the family on New Year’s Day, but officials said she did not show any signs of abuse or malnourishment.
Investigators said both children have been removed from the home and are said to be doing “very well and are very happy right now.”
Police said a trust account has been created in support of the children involved in this abuse case.
Anyone who is interested in donating can do so at:
Cole, Scott and Kissane, P.A. Trust Account
c/o The Northern Trust Company
600 Brickell Avenue, Suite 2400
Miami, Florida 33131
Attn: Michael Villasana
For the benefit of the minor children of Wilson/Swann