The stepmother of Ahizya Osceola, the 3-year-old Hollywood boy who was found dead in a box in the family’s laundry room, swaddled in garbage bags, appeared in front of a Broward judge Thursday morning, weeping and wearing a suicide prevention suit.
The boy’s father, who is facing a charge of child neglect, was released from the Broward County Jail on a $50,000 bond. Wearing a Chicago Bulls hat and a red Nike sweatshirt, Nelson Osceola, 24, refused to answer questions and shouted expletives at waiting reporters, according to Miami Herald news partner CBS4.
Broward Judge John Hurley ordered that the bond for Analiz Osceola, also 24, remain at $230,000 and that she have no contact with her husband. She is facing charges of aggravated manslaughter, child neglect and giving false information to police conducting an investigation.
Last Thursday, she told her mother she went into Ahizya’s room to awake him for breakfast and he wasn’t there. Her mother then called Seminole police, who reported the child missing to Hollywood police, because the family’s home in the 5400 block of Johnson Street falls in Hollywood’s jurisdiction.
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Hollywood police undertook an exhaustive search involving bloodhounds and helicopters. Police later found the boy’s body hidden in the laundry room.
New details emerged Thursday from Analiz and Nelson Osceola’s arrest affidavits.
The autopsy completed by the Medical Examiner’s Office showed that Ahizya had “numerous bruises on his torso, right leg, head and face and to both arms and legs,” according to the arrest report.
It goes on to say: “He had numerous gouge marks to his neck. His left leg had a spiral fracture to the left tibia and a large open wound to the top of his foot and shin area.”
The medical examiner ruled that Ahizya’s death was due to “blunt impact abdominal trauma, causing a transected pancreas [three pieces] and a lacerated liver, and the manner of death to be a homicide.”
Analiz Osceola originally told police that the handle of the back door of the home was loose and that her wallet with $160 and a separate $3,000 were missing, suggesting a possible abduction.
As her story changed — and contradicted her husband’s account — police asked that she take a lie detector test. She agreed, but before she could do so, Ahizya’s body was found.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for BSO defended the agency's handling of Ahizya’s cases Thursday in response to several questions posed by the Miami Herald the day before.
BSO, which handles child abuse investigations in Broward, did not remove Ahizya from his father and stepmother. But during some of the months when the agency was receiving child abuse reports on the family, the toddler was under the supervision of ChildNet, Broward County’s privately run foster care services agency, as well as the Seminole Indian Tribe's social services agency. Like BSO, ChildNet is paid under contract with DCF.
“ChildNet and the Tribal Social Services were fully informed of the investigation and the outcomes and there were enhanced safety actions,” BSO spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright wrote in a statement.
During that time period, Coleman-Wright said, Seminole social workers executed a “safety plan” — which is generally a written promise to better protect a child — and ChildNet caseworkers retained jurisdiction over Ahizya's case for about five months.
Custody over Ahizya was given to his father after his mother, Karen Cypress, was charged with child neglect in 2013. Coleman-Wright said the Seminole Tribe was responsible for conducting the home study that paved the way for that decision because of “the fact that the father, child and grandmother were tribal members and residing on the reservation.”
“The involvement of law enforcement, Seminole Tribal Social Services and the Child Protection Team were incorporated in every investigation” of Ahizya’s welfare, Coleman-Wright said, adding that ChildNet case management was involved in all cases, as well, except for the most recent abuse report, which was received in December 2014.
Also on Thursday, state Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Hollywood Democrat who chairs the chamber’s Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, said she has asked DCF’s secretary, Mike Carroll, to appear before her committee next week to discuss Ahizya’s death. She said she also would like to speak with representatives of ChildNet, BSO and the Seminole Tribe. The toddler had lived in Sobel’s legislative district.
Sobel helped draft an overhaul of the state's child welfare laws last session in response to a Miami Herald series that explored the cases of 477 children from throughout the state who had died from abuse or neglect after DCF had prior contact with the child's family.
Miami Herald news partner CBS4 contributed to the report.