HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — Police charged the stepmother of a 3-year-old boy with aggravated manslaughter Wednesday and accused her of hiding the boy's badly bruised, lifeless body in a box in the laundry room before reporting him missing.
Ahizya Osceola's death came after years of horrific abuse, according to police and detailed child welfare reports.
"In his little short life he sustained a significant amount of injuries," said Hollywood Police Chief Frank Fernandez, who withheld some details he said were too graphic.
"His body from top to bottom was bruised," and his pancreas and liver were significantly damaged," Fernandez said. Police said the dark-haired boy with wide brown eyes ultimately died from blunt force trauma.
His stepmother, Analiz Osceola, was also charged with child neglect and lying to law enforcement during an investigation. The boy's father, Nelson Osceola, was charged with child neglect. Police said the couple showed no emotion when they were arrested. Her arrest came shortly after she was released from a psychiatric ward, which she had checked herself into after the boy's death. Ahizya's siblings were also removed from their parent's care.
It's unclear whether the couple has retained attorneys. At the time of the police news conference, they were being transported to jail.
Authorities said Analiz Osceola pretended the boy was missing last week, prompting a massive aerial and door-to-door search by law enforcement that ultimately led them back to the family's South Florida home.
In an effort to mislead investigators, she said the back door was open, money was missing from her wallet and thousands had been taken from another part of the home, Fernandez said.
Police found the boy's body in a garbage bag under bags of clothes inside a box.
Authorities gave few details of why they filed a manslaughter charge and said they believe the boy was dead when put into the box.
"She knew that the child was injured. The child did have injuries where they should have sought medical attention and they did not," Fernandez said.
Child welfare officials had been warned several times of potential abuse involving the boy, including twice last year.
According to a 27-page report released by the Department of Children and Families, someone called the child abuse hotline in December concerned that Ahizya had bumps and bruises and was complaining of a sore bottom. He was examined, but a doctor couldn't determine whether his bruised rectum was from constipation or sexual abuse.
An earlier report about the boy's bruises came in April, but Nelson Osceola told Broward Sheriff's Office child protective investigators the child was prone to falls and walking into tables.
Bruises to Ahizya's forehead, neck and jaw "were positive for physical abuse," according to the April report, which also detailed significant cuts on the child. Both cases were ultimately closed with no intervention.
Nelson Osceola told child investigators he spanked the boy, but denied any physical abuse. The child also said his stepmother hurt his bottom, according to the reports.
Ahizya, who investigators described as a chatty and polite boy, lived with his father and stepmother after his mother was arrested on child neglect charges last year. A DCF report says the child was found wandering a hotel alone while his mother was passed out drunk.