A Florida couple faces dozens of charges for allegedly partaking in “a brutal pattern of child neglect, abuse and torture” against children in their home, detectives said.
The Volusia Sheriff’s Office said the situation began when Taylor B. Schaefer, 28, called deputies after getting a “gut feeling” that her boyfriend, 32-year-old Shawn M. Stone, was abusing her 5-year-old child.
She called 911 after checking surveillance video and confirming the abuse, according to deputies.
Sheriff Mike Chitwood said Stone punched, kicked, and beat the child with a mop handle for having an accident.
He was initially arrested on a charge of aggravated child abuse, but as detectives investigated the situation, they learned that the abuse was worse than they initially thought.
Deputies said the surveillance video showed instances of the 5-year-old victim being beaten and bound with his hands behind his back for hours in the days leading up to the 911 call.
“In one incident, his hands were bound behind his back from 6:43 p.m. one evening until 2:02 p.m. the following day,” the sheriff’s office said. “On another occasion, his legs, feet, arms and torso were bound for at least an hour while Stone stood over him.”
Stone was also seen beating the already injured child on cameras while Schaefer was seen telling the victim to stand up, deputies said. The VSO report said Schaefer was also seen mopping up the area where the child was beaten with the mop handle on the day she called 911.
Video taken in other parts of the home recorded the sounds of violence as the child was continuously beaten, deputies said.
“Ultimately, the investigation revealed multiple recordings of the victim receiving beatings while Schaefer was present in the house, as well as several instances where he was visibly injured and limping in her presence, but received no care or medical attention,” the sheriff’s office said.
Deputies said when the child was taken to a hospital for treatment, doctors and nurses discovered that the 5-year-old suffered 46 visible injuries, internal injuries, and a fractured skull.
Through interviews and the examination of text messages, detectives learned that the couple kept the 5-year-old in a dog cage and starved him, the sheriff’s office said.
Detectives said they also learned that an older child was “forced to drink boiling water, sprayed with boiling water, and beaten with several household objects.” This child also was said to be a witness to the “brutal abuse” heaped upon the 5-year-old.
In addition to the beatings suffered by the first two children, deputies said they learned that a third child with “a serious medical condition” was being neglected without proper care or nutrition.
Deputies said the children were removed from the home on May 9 during the investigation.
After concluding their investigation, the sheriff’s office said they charged Stone with an additional 23 charges for “repeated acts of abuse and neglect.”
Schaefer also faces 25 charges for not intervening or reporting the instances of abuse, according to detectives. As of Monday, she was taken into custody.
The charges both partners face include “aggravated child abuse, to child neglect, to false imprisonment, to failure to report child abuse, to conspiracy to commit those crimes, to evidence and witness tampering,” the sheriff’s office said.