ORLANDO, Fla. – A restaurant manager credited with rescuing a boy from severe child abuse by using a secret sign was honored Thursday by a Florida cabinet member.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried presented Flaviane Carvalho with a Florida Cabinet proclamation in recognition of her efforts.
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“It’s so inspirational, and hopefully being able to be here today, and telling your story that we can inspire others to be as heroic,” Fried said. “You saved somebody’s life.”
The proclamation declares January 28, 2021 as Flaviane Carvalho Child Advocacy Day in the state of Florida.
“I didn’t expect anything like that,” Carvalho said of the honor.
Following the proclamation, Carvalho wanted to share a message about her experience and what people can take away from it.
“Please, if you see something, especially against kids and old people, the most vulnerable -- don’t be afraid to do something about it,” Carvalho said.
Orlando police said Carvalho was working at Mrs. Potato restaurant on South Kirkman Road on New Year’s Day 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 body.
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 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.
Fried said more people should follow Carvalho’s example when they see something wrong.
“We need good citizens and good Samaritans to stand up and we are all part of the same community and so we gotta give people who see something the power to know that they can make a difference,” Fried said Thursday.
Carvalho said she’s recently heard positive news that the 11-year-old victim is going better and has gained some weight. She says she would love to see him again after he fully recovers.
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.”
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