It was the last family being served at the restaurant, and the waitress grew worried when she saw bruises on the boy.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on January 18, 2021. It has since been updated.
Trigger warning: Contains details of child abuse that may be distressing to some.
On New Year's Day, Flavaine Carvalho was supposed to have the day off from her waitressing job at the Mrs. Potato restaurant in Orlando, Florida. But when somebody else called in sick, Flavaine had to fill in and she wound up going to work. The last-minute turn of events led to her saving the life of a young boy who was being abused by his parents at home.
Since it was New Year's Day, the restaurant was having a busy day with several customers. When things finally began to wind down, Flavaine found herself seating down the last family of the night at their table.
What Flavaine found strange was that the rest of the family was talking and playing normally, while the 11-year-old boy sitting with them in a mask and a hoodie was noticeably quiet. After the food and drinks were brought to the table, Flavaine started growing even more suspicious when she noticed that everybody at the table was eating, but the boy was not having anything.
Wondering if there was something else going on, Flavaine went up to the table and asked if everything was OK. One of the parents responded to her saying the boy would be having his meal at home.
Flavaine knew something was wrong as she said, according to CNN, "You don't deny food for a kid, especially in a restaurant."
She grew even more worried when she noticed bruises on the young boy's arm and his face. That's when she knew she couldn't just stand back and let the family finish their meal and leave.
"I just thought I need to do something," Flavaine recalled. "I could not see him go away without any help."
The quick-thinking waitress decided to write a note for the boy, asking if he was OK. She held up the sign and stood behind the parents, so they wouldn't see her. And when the boy saw the sign, he nodded at her saying no, he was not ok.
"I knew it -- that he is afraid or he is not comfortable saying that he needs help," Flavaine said.
When she held up another note that said, "Do you need help?" the boy nodded yes and "made a movement with his hands showing he didn't know what to do."
Not wasting any more time, Flavaine rang up her boss, after which, she called 911 and said, "One of the kids is with a lot of bruises on his arms and on his face and the parent is not giving food for him but is giving to the other kids that are with them. I'm super concerned and I don't know what to do. Can you give me some advice?"
Her 911 call led to officers from the Orlando Police Department arriving at the restaurant. After they had a conversation with the child, they discovered that the boy was being physically abused by his stepfather, who was identified as Timothy Lee Wilson II. The boy's mother was also identified as Kristen Swann.
While speaking to the officers, the boy revealed that the parents would often deny him food and he would be hung upside down from a door.
During a press conference, Detective Erin Lawler with the Orlando Police special victims unit said about the boy who was 20 pounds underweight for his age, "What this child had gone through it was torture. I'm a mother and seeing what that 11-year-old had to go through... It shocks your soul. If Ms. Carvalho would not have said something when she saw it that little boy would probably not be with us much longer."
Grateful that Flavaine was at the right place at the right time, her boss, Rafaela Cabede said, "We truly believe that this was a holy provision, and we were very blessed that we were able to help this child."
The police arrested the stepfather and charged him with three counts of aggravated child abuse and child neglect. The boy's mother was also charged with two counts of child neglect, as reported by People.
After the abuse came to light, the 11-year-old boy and another 4-year-old child were removed from the house and placed in safe custody.