Restaurant Manager Saw Bruises on Boy, Then Wrote Sign Asking 'Do You Need Help?' Now Stepdad Faces Prison

Prosecutors said Timothy Lee Wilson "tortured, maliciously punished, and deprived" his stepson "of food and water for days at a time"

Child's note for help
The sign restaurant manager Flaviane Carvalho made to help the victim. Photo: Orlando Police Department/Facebook

A 36-year-old Florida man has been convicted of abusing his stepson more than a year after his arrest, which came after a restaurant manager showed the boy a sign asking, "Do you need help?"

Timothy Lee Wilson will be sentenced in late August after he was found guilty Monday of two counts of false imprisonment of 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, according to a statement from the Orange County State Attorney's Office.

Wilson was arrested on Jan. 1, 2021, at the Mrs. Potato Restaurant in Orlando, after an observant restaurant manager suspecting abuse called 911.

Police were summoned to the restaurant after the manager — Flaviane Carvalho — noticed the boy was bruised, scraped and malnourished, and also that he was seated "secluded" from his parents and his sibling. She also noticed he was the only member of the family without a meal or beverage.

"When Ms. Carvalho noticed injuries on the victim, she signaled to identify whether he was in need of help by holding up a sign out of the sight of Mr. Wilson, and he acknowledged that he did," reads the statement.

Police started looking into the boy's home life, and quickly determined "he 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," according to the statement.

Duct tape covered the peep hole to the boy's room, the statement indicates.

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"He routinely was deprived of food and beverages, was made to do military-style exercises, hung upside down from a door by his neck and feet, and at one point, handcuffed to a dolly cart on Christmas Day," the statement reads. "Officers recovered multiple items used as weapons — a bent metal pole, a wooden broom, a dolly cart, handcuffs, and ratchet straps used to tie the victim up."

It took the jury just two hours to return guilty verdicts on all 10 counts.

The victim's mother, Kristen Swann, was arrested days after the family's fateful restaurant visit.

Swann, 32, is facing multiple felony abuse charges, including neglect of a child, aggravated abuse and failure to report child abuse. She allegedly admitted to investigators she was aware of the abuse, but did nothing to stop it and repeatedly failed to seek medical attention for her injured child.

She has pleaded not guilty. Her trial is set for July. PEOPLE was not immediately able to reach her attorney.

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