Exclusive New Details on How a Captive Nevada Mother Hid the Sticky Notes That Saved Lives

The Las Vegas family’s attorney tells PEOPLE how the woman wrote multiple notes until finally reaching authorities, who rescued her and her daughter — and found her missing son’s body hidden in a freezer

Mason Dominguez
Mason Dominguez (left) with his mother and sister.

Every time a Las Vegas mother of two wrote a note in the few moments she had alone each day, she knew it was a matter of life and death.

In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, the mother's attorney, Stephen Stubbs, reveals the details of the notes she wrote on a sticky pad in hopes that anyone — except her abusive boyfriend — would see them.

"I was just trying to survive," the 28-year-old woman, whose identity is not being revealed due to the nature of the crimes, told her attorney.

She spent months watching the escalating behavior of Brandon Toseland — who allegedly held her captive inside his two-story, three-bedroom house — grow frightening, according to her attorney. He put locks on her bedroom doorknobs, which required a key to open. He installed motion sensors inside the home. He watched her use the restroom. And whenever she rode in the car with him, she says she was always handcuffed.

It was in the car that she discovered a pack of sticky notes and a pen. Whenever she could, she'd write a few words and hide the notes until she could write again. Once she finished, she tucked the notes inside her clothes and eventually hid them in her mattress.

"Help! I'm being held captive," said one. "Call my mom," said another. "He has a gun. Be careful."

"She thought of situations: 'What if I had a chance to give a note to a mailman, or a stranger or a pizza man,'" Stubbs says about the mother's mindset through months of alleged physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.

That moment finally came on Feb. 22, at about 8:40 a.m., when her 7-year-old daughter handed her elementary school teacher a collection of the mother's notes "claiming she was being held against her will," according to a news release from the Las Vegas Police Department.

School officials notified authorities, who watched Toseland as they worked to obtain search warrants. While they waited, Toseland and the girl's mother exited his home and drove away. Police pulled him over for a traffic violation and "that's when it was over," Stubbs says.

Las Vegas Metro Police investigated his residence and discovered the remains of her 4-year-old son, Mason Dominguez, inside a freezer in the garage.

Mason Dominguez
Mason Dominguez.

"The woman told detectives she had undergone abuse by Toseland, and she was not allowed to leave the house alone or enter the garage," police stated. She added that she had not seen her son since Dec. 11 and suspected he was dead.

When she was no longer allowed to see her son, she knew she needed to figure out a plan to save herself and her daughter. She observed Toseland and noted there were two places he failed to search — between the mattress cover and sheet on her side of the bed; and inside her daughter's socks.

On Feb. 20, for reasons unknown, Toseland allowed the girl to sleep with her mother.

"That's when she coached her daughter about what to do and how important it was that [Toseland] didn't know about this and everything else," Stubbs says. When it was time for the girl to go to school, he says she told her daughter, "Put this note in your sock, under your feet to hide in your shoe."

After her daughter walked into the classroom, all she could do was pray.

"She's heroic. For her to be in that situation and try to pay attention to the details and come up with a plan — this was done over weeks," Stubbs says, his voice breaking. "And just looking for a flaw. And when she identified a flaw, she exploited it with the small acts of rebellion to take her power back, whatever little power she could take."

Brandon Toseland
Brandon Toseland. Clark County Detention Center/ AP/Shutterstock

On Monday, Toseland appeared in front of a judge where he was charged with two counts of first-degree kidnapping and one count of open murder, a general allegation of homicide in Nevada. Online records showed he remained in Clark County Jail without bail.

No plea was entered, and his bail is expected to be discussed at a preliminary hearing on April 7, records show.

Before Moving to Hell

Mason's mother, a phlebotomist, was married to Eli Dominguez, who died from pneumonia in January 2021.

"They were a happy and joyous family, and Eli was salt of the earth, just amazing," Stubbs says. "She couldn't have asked for a better husband."

Mason Dominguez
Eli Dominguez with his daughter, son Mason and wife.

After Eli unexpectedly died, his widow found herself struggling with bills and raising her two young children. Toseland, who was friends with Eli, swooped in and began to help her through her grief. By March, she and her children moved into his home.

The woman's family members grew concerned when Toseland was disrespectful to them at a family gathering, her attorney says.

"He methodically and systematically just started exercising more and more control over her," Stubbs says. "So the family expressed concern, [and] then they kind of started withdrawing from family a little bit."

After Dec. 11, when the mother could no longer see Mason, Toseland took control of her phone and allegedly sent texts berating her family and quitting her job.

When she wasn't forced to clean the house and cook meals, she was tied up inside her room, sometimes with duct tape, her attorney claims. "She's traumatized."

Now, she's planning funeral arrangements for her son Mason with assistance from GoFundMe.

"Mason was so bright and loved to learn. At the age of 3, he had known all his letters and numbers. He enjoyed swimming at his grandma's house, ready to jump into the pool any chance he had," it states.

"We will forever remember this sweet and precious little boy and cherish all these wonderful memories we have of him. Our family knows that Mason is in Heaven with his daddy, dancing and playing forever."

Mason Dominguez
Mason Dominguez and his mother.

The mother and her daughter, whom PEOPLE is not identifying due to the nature of the alleged crimes against them, are currently surrounded by family as they continue to heal from the ordeal.

"She needs her daughter," Stubbs says. "They're spending a lot of time together."

If you suspect domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

Related Articles