A jury in Orange County found a 36-year-old man guilty of multiple charges of child abuse almost a year and a half after a quick-thinking Orlando waitress alerted the police on finding his stepson in distress.
The incident dates back to the New Year’s Day of 2021 when Flaviane Carvalho was serving the family of the accused, Timothy Lee Wilson, at her restaurant Mrs Potato.
She noticed bruises on the 11-year-old child accompanying the family of four. He was also reportedly “secluded” from the rest of the family and was the only one at the table not eating.
When she asked why, Wilson reportedly told her that he would eat at home later.
"I could see he had a big scratch between his eyebrows," Ms Carvalho said during a 2021 press conference, according to Fox 35. "Couple of minutes later, I saw a bruise on the side of his eye. So I felt there was something really wrong."
She soon sprung to action and flashed him a secret handwritten note asking if he needed help. After the boy nodded yes, she dialled 911 and called the police.
"I was used like a tool from God to help him," she told NBC affiliate Wesh. "We need to pay attention for the ones that are in need, and step forward to do something to change the situation."
The investigators later learned that the boy’s stepfather, Wilson, had tortured the child, punishing him with military-style exercises, hanging him upside down, isolating and starving him for days.
Officers recovered multiple items used as weapons to tie and punish the minor. These include a bent metal pole, a wooden broom, a dolly cart, handcuffs, and ratchet straps.
On Monday, ninth judicial circuit state attorney Monique H Worrell announced that a six-person jury found Wilson guilty of two counts of false imprisonment of a child under 13 years of age, three counts of aggravated child abuse with a weapon, four counts of aggravated child abuse, and one count of child neglect.
He will be sentenced on 19 August.
Meanwhile, the boy’s mother and Wilson’s wife Kristen Swann, also reportedly admitted to police knowing about the abuse and failing to secure medical care for him. She was arrested and charged with two counts of child neglect.
Ms Carvalho was widely credited for saving the boy’s life.
“We probably would’ve been talking about a potential homicide investigation if she had not intervened when she did,” Orlando police chief Orlando Rolon had said last year.
“We firmly believe that without her asking him if he needed help and calling 911, he would have gone even longer without eating or drinking and continuing to be tortured at the hands of Mr Wilson,” assistant state attorney Lauryn Day said.
“Had she not said anything, I believe law enforcement and the child protection team thought he probably could have died.”
Her boss Rafaela Cabede organised a fundraiser page on GoFundMe to “support and reward our hero”. It quickly surpassed the stated goal of $10,000 and has so far received $46,710 from 1,400 donors.
After the jury’s decision, Ms Carvalho posted an update on the page. “Justice served,” read her post from 4 June.
“Thanks God, the boy child is very well and being raised with a lot of love. He is happy and healthy.”