Warning: The details in this story are graphic and may not be suitable for all readers.
BARTOW, Fla. (WFLA) — A Bartow couple faces manslaughter charges for the death of a 3-year-old boy who was left without medical care, according to deputies.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said Bartow Fire Rescue responded to a home on Golfview Avenue on May 12 after getting a call about an unresponsive child.
There, they found a 3-year-old boy who was connected to a ventilator but did not have a pulse.
According to authorities, the child was a victim of a near-drowning in the summer of 2020 that left him comatose and in need of a ventilator. The incident happened at a vacation home in Davenport, a probable cause affidavit said.
The affidavit said rescue personnel took the 3-year-old to Bartow Regional Heath, where he was found to have a severely bloated belly, “numerous open sores,” and avulsion injuries that were so severe that the child’s colon was visible.
“This child was rotting in the bed,” Sheriff Grady Judd said.
The document also stated that the smell of decomposition was present on the child and his stomach appeared green in color with marbling.
“Photographs were provided to Dr. Rennie at Bartow Regional Health, who advised the open sores are consistent with child neglect,” the document said. “The open sores … to the body were severe with major open wounds on the victim’s body resulting in permanent disfigurement.”
According to deputies, the child had been living with Takesha Williams, 24, Efrem Allen, 25, and their two other children — a 2-year-old and a 10-month-old.
Detectives said after the 2020 incident, a home nurse had visited the child to help with his care, but the family switched medical companies about one or two months ago.
“However, they have not been to the home since this time,” the affidavit said.
According to the sheriff, the family refused the nursing staff from coming to care for the child.
The suspects stated that they were taught how to change the child’s trach tube and other needs, according to the document. Judd said Williams was also receiving benefits in order to care for the child.
However, detectives said in April, Williams and Allen noticed the sores on the child’s body.
“They both informed they knew the sores were extensive and were afraid to contact anybody, due to being afraid they would have their children taken away by DCF,” the affidavit stated. “Additionally, they stated people would assume it was neglect; however, they stated the victim is not neglected.”
According to the sheriff’s office, the child appeared to still be alive and had a heartbeat on the night of May 11, but the following morning, the couple noticed that the child appeared bloated and was cold to the touch.
However, they did not call 911 until about 3 p.m. that Friday.
“Both, Takesha Williams and Efrem Allen Jr., advised they knew they should have contacted a health care professional based on the declining health of the decedent in the past month; however, they failed to do so,” the affidavit said.
Both suspects were initially arrested for negligent child abuse causing great harm on May 13, but on Friday, May 26, the 10th Judicial Circuit Court upgraded their charges to aggravated manslaughter of a child.
“I’ve seen some truly horrific events in my long law enforcement career, but I have never, ever seen anything as sad, as bone-chilling, and as sickening as what this baby suffered before finally perishing from the despicable acts of these two criminals,” Judd said.