Boy, 12, Restrained by Dog Shock Collar Before He Starved to Death — and Parents Are Charged
Police found videos and photos showing Eduardo Fosso in restraints and fitted with a dog shock-collar around his neck
The death of a 12-year-old boy by apparent starvation has led to charges against his father and stepmother, in whose Indiana motel room police found videos and photos showing the child in restraints and fitted with a dog shock-collar around his neck while in the tub.
The boy, Eduardo Fosso, “lived a very sad life, a lot of times under restraint, and his life gradually diminished after repeated acts of abuse by his father with the … knowledge of his stepmother,” Monroe County Sheriff Brad Swain said at a news conference Tuesday.
Luis Fosso, 32, and his wife Dayan Media Flores, 25, are facing three counts each of neglect and one count of confinement. Fosso faces an additional count of domestic battery.
More charges, including murder, could be filed after the results of forensic testing that has yet to formally determine cause and manner of death, said the sheriff.
“The initial thoughts are that he starved to death,” he said.
When Eduardo died, the child was “severely emaciated, weighing approximately 50 to 55 pounds,” with no broken bones or internal injuries but bruises “all over,” said Monroe County coroner Joani Shields.
“It’s not been overnight,” she said of the signs of starvation. “It’s been a long time that he’s been without food.”
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“There’s really no words for this type of abuse, and how it affects all of us,” said sheriff’s detective Lt. Jennifer Allen, adding that she and her colleagues investigating the case reacted with “disbelief, horror, shock.”
Three other children with the couple — a 9-year-old girl, 5-year-old boy and 2-year-old boy — appear healthy and were placed with a child protection agency, said the sheriff.
Fosso and Flores were staying with the four children at an Economy Inn in Bloomington, Indiana, while passing through the area as contract employees hired to post ads promoting a traveling circus, according to authorities.
Law enforcement learned about the “unresponsive boy” in the early morning hours Friday from officials at Bloomington Hospital, where he was brought by his father and found to exhibit “signs of extreme abuse,” said the sheriff.
Eduardo was declared dead at 3:05 a.m., just 13 minutes after his arrival, but had already quit breathing by the time doctors saw him, said Allen.
Investigators obtained a search warrant and returned to the family’s motel room, where they found chains, ankle and wrist restraints, and the dog shock-collar. Video and photographic evidence recovered from the parents’ cell phones and a web-based security system in their possession showed the alleged mistreatment of the boy — but also that “he appeared to be somewhat of a normal, happy little boy approximately a year ago,” said Allen.
“Both the father and the stepmother denied withholding food from the child,” she said. “The father did admit to some sorts of physical abuse on the child, and the stepmother is the one that actually told us that the father physically abuses the child, as well as uses the restraints on him. The father never did admit to using the restraints on the child.”
“I was given the explanation that (Eduardo) was the child that acted up the most,” she said. “He was the one that they always had issues with.”
Early investigation revealed that both the father and the stepmother were named in complaints investigated by child protective services in Florida, where the family claimed a prior residence. Relatives from Florida expressed surprise upon learning the family was working on the road and that the children had been pulled out of school, possibly as long as a year ago, said authorities.
The sheriff said his agency is trying to document the couple’s recent travels — they most recently were working in the towns of Bedford, Nashville and Kokomo, and had been in Bloomington since Monday — for possible evidence or charges in other jurisdictions.
Authorities said that while the children typically went out with the adults as they circulated promotional flyers for the circus, Eduardo may have been kept hidden in their van or left behind in hotel rooms. A housekeeper at the Economy Inn told authorities that while she had not personally seen the boy in the family’s room, she spotted a web camera attached to a towel bar in the bathroom.
“She did think that was somewhat odd,” said Allen.
On Thursday, with the family together out leafletting, Eduardo “seemed like he was more and more sick,” Allen said she was told by the parents. “The stepmom said ‘I think we need to go back to the hotel,’ and at that point they did … and he continued to decline from there.”
In the early hours of Friday, “they realized he wasn’t breathing, and then rushed him to the hospital,” she said.
Said the sheriff, citing the 20 years he spent as a child abuse investigator: “I’ve worked some pretty horrendous ones, but this is … beyond anything I’ve worked.”
He portrayed the alleged abuse as “an intentional, deliberate act on Eduardo for reasons that we’ll still try to determine, while the other children seemed to be in fairly good shape. … I’m sure this will be with these children for the rest of their lives.”
An attorney was not immediately named to represent the couple, who are being held on a $500,000 bond each in the Monroe County Correctional Center.
They are scheduled to be back in court on Friday.