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Stepfather found guilty of abusing boy who was rescued by quick-thinking Florida waitress

The case made national headlines last year when the Orlando waitress sensed the boy was in trouble, created a sign to secretly ask him if he needed help and called police.
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A Florida man on Monday was convicted of abusing his stepson, whose rescue last year made national headlines after a quick-thinking Orlando waitress and restaurant manager used covert signals to get the child help.

A six-person jury in Orange County found Timothy Lee Wilson guilty of two counts of false imprisonment on a child under 13, three counts of aggravated child abuse with a weapon, four counts of aggravated child abuse and one count of child neglect, Ninth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Monique H. Worrell announced in a release.

Wilson, now 36, had pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to court records.

The state attorney’s office said the charges stemmed from a call the restaurant staffer made on New Year's Day.

Flavaine Carvalho, the manager at Mrs. Potato Restaurant, noticed the boy, then 11, was denied food and had bruises on his body.

Carvalho secretly showed him a handwritten sign that asked “Do you need help?” After multiple tries, “he nodded his head yes,” prompting Carvalho to call police, she said.

Wilson was arrested the same day. He was taken into custody again on Jan. 6, 2021, charged with multiple counts of aggravated child abuse.

The child’s mother, Kristen Swann, was also arrested Jan. 6, 2021, and charged with two counts of child neglect.

Subsequent investigations found the victim was “tortured, maliciously punished, and deprived of food and water for days at a time,” Worrell’s office said.

The victim's family had relocated to Orlando during Covid-19, Keisha C. Mulfort, chief of staff for the state attorney’s office, added. They were living in two hotel rooms after Wilson was furloughed from his job and unable to secure permanent housing, according to Mulfort.

Wilson, the victim's mother, and younger sibling resided in one room and the victim was kept in a second room the family used as their storage room, she said.

Duct tape covered the peep hole to the victim’s room and he was forced to do military-style exercises, was hung upside down from a door by his neck and feet, and was handcuffed to a dolly cart on Christmas Day, the release stated.

Police also recovered multiple items used as weapons in the probe: the dolly cart, a bent metal pole, a wooden broom, handcuffs and ratchet straps to tie up the victim, the state attorney's office said.

Wilson’s sentencing is set for Aug. 19.

When asked for comment on the guilty verdict, Wilson’s attorney, Leslie Sweet, told NBC News, “My client sincerely felt that he was doing his best for the child.”