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Florida restaurant manager uses covert signals to rescue abused child, police say

An Orlando waitress noticed parents withholding food from a boy and asked if he needed help. Both parents were later charged with multiple child abuse counts.
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Florida police are hailing an Orlando restaurant manager and waitress who used covert signals to get an allegedly abused child help.

Flavaine Carvalho tipped off police after noticing troubling signs in a family she served on New Year's Day at the Mrs. Potato Restaurant on South Kirkman Road in Orlando, Florida.

Carvalho's tip prompted a police investigation that resulted in multiple charges of child abuse and neglect for the boy's mother and step-father.

The Orlando Police Department shared a video in which Carvalho recounted her experience.

She said that the family came in like a "regular family."

"I observed that the boy was denied food," Carvalho said, "it was the first thing that got my attention."

Carvalho said she tried to ask the boy if something was wrong; stepfather Timothy Wilson II, 34, apparently told Carvalho that things were fine and that the boy was going to eat dinner at home after they left.

"This was super strange to me," Carvalho said, describing the boy as showing signs of abuse and neglect, including a scratch on his head. "I could see that he was super quiet and sad."

She tried to ask if he was okay and the boy nodded yes, "but he didn't convince me," Carvalho said.

She came back with a written sign and showed it to him behind his parents' back, and after multiple tries, "he nodded his head yes," Carvalho said.

Image: Waitress saves child
An Orlando waitress saw a family withholding food from a boy at a table. She noticed bruises on his body and created this sign to secretly ask the child if he needed help.Orlando Police Dept.

She said she called 911 and the police arrived shortly thereafter.

The boy's stepfather was arrested that day and charged with one count of third-degree child abuse.

After a police investigation uncovered much worse allegations and signs of abuse, the stepfather was arrested again on January 6 and charged with multiple counts of aggravated child abuse.

The boy's mother, 31-year-old Kristen Swann, was also arrested on Jan. 6 and faces two counts of child neglect for failing to report the abuse.

"By saying something when she saw something, Ms. Carvalho displayed courage and care for a child she had never even met before, and we’re proud someone like Ms. Carvalho lives and works in our community," the Orlando Police Department said in a statement.

Swann and Wilson did not return phone calls seeking comment on Friday.