Lifestyle & Human Interest

'Do You Need Help?': Waitress Helps Rescue Age 11 Boy from Abusive Home, Police Say


When people are in a situation where they are being held against their will or abused, it can be very tricky for them to get help. Many captors are vigilant, and any suspicious activity could result in more harm to the captive — but no activity could lead to further abuses.

Some victims have escaped thanks to their cleverness — through ordering pizzas, making a break for it at just the right moment or catching the attention of the right person. But when you’re a child, those means aren’t always available to you.

Thankfully, there are people like Flavaine Carvalho who know what to do when they spot abuse.

Carvalho works as a waitress at Mrs. Potato restaurant in Orlando, Florida, and on New Year’s Day she noticed something strange. The first thing she observed at one of her tables was that everyone except an 11-year-old boy had food.

She asked whether anything was wrong with their order, but Timothy Wilson II, the child’s stepfather, said the boy would eat at home later. A mother herself, Carvalho thought that was very odd.

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Looking closer, she could read the boy’s painful past.

“I could see that he had a scratch, big scratch between his eyebrows,” Carvalho said during a news conference Thursday. “And couple minutes later, I saw some bruise on his, the side of his eyes. And after, bruises here. So I feel that something really wrong was happening there with the kid. …

“I could not see the boy going away without any help.”

So she formed a plan. She wrote, “Do you need help? OK” on a makeshift sign, stood in his parents’ blind spot, held up her message and waited for a response from the boy.

Eventually, he nodded “yes.”

She called 911.

“I’m super concerned and I don’t know what to do, can you give me some advice?” she asked the dispatcher, according to a recording obtained by WOFL-TV in Orlando. “What I can do?”

“The boy is with bruises and he’s not eating. The others are eating.”

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There’s no way Carvalho could have known just how desperately the boy needed help or the depths to which his so-called parents sank to abuse their child, but her instincts served her well. The news conference concerning the case was heartbreaking.

“What this child had gone through, like I said, was just — it was torture. … Seeing what that 11-year-old had to go through, is just — it shocks your soul,” Detective Erin Lawler said.

As police interviewed the boy, he told them of some of the horrible things he had endured. He said he’d been handcuffed to a moving dolly, hung upside-down from a door, hit with a broom, denied food, forced to plank for 30 minutes and had ratchet straps tied around his ankles and neck.

Both the 11-year-old and a 4-year-old child were removed from the situation and are now safe. A trust account has been started in their name.

Wilson was arrested and charged with third-degree child abuse, multiple counts of aggravated child abuse and child neglect.

The boy’s mother, Kirsten Swann, was also arrested and charged with child neglect.

“If Ms. Carvalho would not have said something when she saw it, that little boy would probably not be with us much longer,” Lawler said, her voice breaking.

The owner of the restaurant also mentioned during the news conference that the family had been seated at the only table where Carvalho’s sign would have worked, as it was the only seating arrangement that allowed for her to stand behind the parents without being seen.

The savior waitress wasn’t even supposed to be working on that day, but thank God she was. Because of her and a providential table position, two children have been saved.

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