3-Year-Old Boy Was Two Days from Death When Police Found Him — and Arrested His Guardian
Investigators in Indiana have arrested five people for their alleged roles in the month-long abuse of a severely malnourished 3-year-old boy
Investigators in Indiana have arrested five people for their alleged roles in the prolonged abuse of a severely malnourished 3-year-old boy, who police found in March with broken bones, facial bruising, a cut septum and sections of his scalp missing, PEOPLE confirms.
Nappanee police detective Nik Havert says that Jammy Stacy, 41, is allegedly responsible for the injuries the child sustained. Stacy was the boy’s legal guardian and a friend of the victim’s 24-year-old mother, Rune Springer, Havert says.
According to Havert, Springer allegedly signed guardianship of her son over to Stacy a year before the abuse was detected, saying she could no longer afford to care for the boy.
Both Springer and Stacy are charged with neglect of a dependent with serious bodily injury.
Havert tells PEOPLE that if the boy’s mother had waited just two more days to take him to the hospital, he would have died from the physical abuse, malnutrition and dehydration.
“That was the doctor’s assertion,” the detective explains. “They told me this kid would not have lasted the week.”
According to Havert, an investigation determined that Stacy, the child’s guardian, was beating him over a period of months. Several people in the boy’s life, including Rune, allegedly failed to report the abuse.
Also charged with neglect of a dependent with serious bodily injury are Annette Priestly, 59, who Havert says is Stacy’s mother, and 58-year-old Fayette Robinette, Stacy’s aunt.
Havert says the boy would sometimes stay with both women, who had ample opportunity to report “what was obvious abuse” to the authorities.
Spring’s husband, Travis Tillotson, 38, is the fifth suspect in the case. He, too, is charged with neglect of a dependent.
Havert tells PEOPLE the investigation started after the victim was taken to a hospital in Warsaw by his mom and stepdad. They brought him in a day after Stacy allegedly dropped him off at their home.
Springer and Tillotson called Stacy soon after she left the child, who was visibly gaunt, and were told that he had already been to a doctor who found him to be in good health, Havert says.
But Springer allegedly told Stacy that could not be true — and that is when Stacy told Springer if she called the police, she, too, would end up in jail for child abuse.
Springer then waited a day and a half before bringing her to the hospital, Havert says.
Havert says the boy was “rail thin” in their initial meeting, with cuts on his mouth and on his face, a scabbed-over nose and broken arms.
Some of the boy’s teeth were also broken, Havert says, and his septum was cut, either by some sort of weapon or from a strong blow.
Deep portions of his scalp were missing — but police do not know if that was a result of direct physical abuse or self-inflicted injuries caused by the child’s scratching.
The initial arrests occurred months ago. Priestly was only just charged this week.
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None of the defendants has entered a plea, and it was unclear if any had attorneys who could comment on their behalf. All have been released on bail, but PEOPLE was unable to reach any for comment on Wednesday.
Havert says the boy will need additional surgeries, as well as physical therapy, in his ongoing road to recovery. But there is a silver lining to the story: the victim, months later, is “doing amazing.”
“He’s night and day from when we got the first call, and it’s because he’s got a great foster mother,” Havert says. “I saw him recently — they had a birthday party for him at a church — and I didn’t even recognize him when I walked in. He had put on weight and was being extremely active.”