A man in the US has been sentenced to life in prison for abusing his stepson after a quick-thinking restaurant manager rushed to the aid of the 11-year-old by writing him a secret note.
Flavaine Carvalho, from the US state of Florida, tipped off the police on New Year's Day last year, after noticing the young boy had been denied food when he and his family visited the Potato Restaurant where she worked.
Ms Carvalho noticed the boy — who was forced to sit away from the family — had bruises on his body, which raised concerns.
"When Ms Carvalho noticed injuries on the victim, she signalled to identify whether he was in need of help by holding up a sign out of the sight of [the family], and he acknowledged that he did," a news release by the State Attorney’s Office for Orange and Osceola Counties confirmed.
The restaurant worker wrote a note that said "Do you need help?"
The boy nodded "yes" so Ms Carvalho called the authorities, Orlando Police confirmed.
Boy 'tortured and maliciously punished'
The boy's stepdad Timothy Lee Wilson was sentenced on August 19.
He was found guilty on numerous counts of false imprisonment, aggravated child abuse and child neglect.
Police claim the child’s mum Kristen Swann knew of the abuse and did not get the boy medical care. She was also arrested on two counts of child neglect.
SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: We talked with an Orlando Restaurant Manager who saw a family withholding food from a boy at a table. She noticed bruises on his body and created a sign to secretly ask the child if he needed help. When he signaled "Yes" she called us. pic.twitter.com/U8m9MG1KUN
— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) January 14, 2021
A police investigation found the young boy had been "tortured, maliciously punished, and deprived of food and water for days at a time."
"A search warrant revealed that the victim was kept in a separate hotel room used for storage, away from Mr Wilson, the victim’s mother, and the younger sibling," the State Attorney said.
The boy was also made to do "military-style exercises" where he "hung upside down from a door by his neck and feet, and at one point, handcuffed to a dolly cart on Christmas Day."
The family had reportedly moved to the area and were living in a hotel at the time.
Police believe things would have ended differently if not for Ms Carvalho.
"We probably would’ve been talking about a potential homicide investigation if she [Carvalho] had not intervened when she did," Orlando Chief of Police Orlando Rolón said, the New York Post reported.
In total, a six-person jury found Wilson guilty of two counts of false imprisonment on 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.
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