'Do You Need Help?' Florida Waitress Used Secret Sign to Rescue Boy After Noticing Abuse: Police
Police say that Flavaine Carvalho noticed bruises on the boy's face and arms when his family ate at her restaurant
An Orlando waitress is being hailed as a hero after police say she saved a child abuse victim after noticing bruises on the boy's face and arms.
Flavaine Carvalho was working as a waitress at Mrs. Potato restaurant on New Year's Day when she noticed a family enter into the restaurant. While the rest of the family got something to eat, they ordered nothing for an 11-year-old boy.
When Carvalho asked if something was wrong with the food, she says that his stepfather told her the boy was going to eat dinner at home later.
That's when Carvalho says she noticed bruises on the boy's face and arms.
"I could see he had a big scratch between his eyebrows," Carvalho said in a 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."
Concerned, Carvalho knew she had to do something. "I could not see the boy going away without any help," she said.
Carvalho wrote a large note saying "Do you need help?" Standing behind the parents where they couldn't see, she caught the eye of the boy and showed him the note. He nodded, so Carvalho called police.
A 911 call from the incident was released on Thursday afternoon. "I'm super concerned and I don't know what to do, can you give me some advice?" Carvalho asked the dispatcher. "The boy is with bruises and he's not eating."
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When authorities arrived, they interviewed the boy, who alleged that he had been abused by his stepfather. He said that he had been tied up, hung from a door, hit with a broom and handcuffed. He also alleged he was denied food as punishment.
Police said in a press conference that doctors examined the boy and found bruises on his face and arms. He was also approximately 20 pounds underweight.
PEOPLE confirms that police arrested the boy's stepfather, whose name PEOPLE is withholding to protect the anonymity of the boy, and charged him with three counts of aggravated child abuse and child neglect. The boy's mother, whose name PEOPLE is also withholding, allegedly admitted to knowing about the abuse and failing to seek medical care for the boy. She has been charged with two counts of child neglect.
The boy and another 4-year-old child have been removed from the home and are now in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families.
During Thursday's news conference, the Orlando Police Department's Special Victims Unit Detective Erin Lawler lauded Carvalho for her quick thinking and bravery.
"What this child had gone through, it was torture," Lawler said. "If Ms. Carvalho would not have said something when she saw it, that little boy would probably not be with us, much longer."