Florida Keys

A boy was beaten, starved and forced to clean the toilet with his toothbrush, cops say

Randell Howell
Randell Howell Monroe County Sheriff's Office

An 11-year-old Key Largo boy described to police a life of horror at the hands of his stepmother’s new boyfriend. He said he endured regular beatings, was deprived of food and clothing, was withdrawn from school and was forced to clean the toilet with the toothbrush he used.

And the stepmother offered no protection. According to a Monroe County Sheriff’s Office arrest report for the boyfriend, 36-year-old Randell Howell, the stepmother would often laugh as the boy was beaten with a belt, punched and kicked.

A neighbor called the sheriff’s office and the Florida Department of Children and Families late Saturday night after the boy showed up at her house off mile marker 101.5 saying he had been beaten and was afraid to go home, Deputy Tony Williams wrote in his report.

The boy begged the woman not to call the police because “the last time the cops were called, his parents lied and said they didn’t touch him, once the police left, they beat him,” Williams wrote in his report.

Howell was arrested Monday on two counts of cruelty toward a child and is being held with no bond at Plantation Key jail.

The stepmother, whose name was not released, has not been arrested or charged pending further investigation, Adam Linhardt, Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said. The boy’s biological father died, and the stepmother was granted custody, Linhardt said.

The boy is now in DCF custody, agency spokeswoman Beatriz Lopez said Tuesday. It is not immediately clear if the agency has investigated the family in the past.

The boy also showed up at the neighbor’s house earlier Saturday at around noon and asked her to take him. He told her he broke the spinner on the washing machine and the stepmother said Howell was going to come home and “beat his ass,” Williams wrote.

The boy showed Williams multiple bruises on his arms, legs and hips. He said Howell beat him.

“He advised that he was kicked while he scrubbed the floor by Randell. He also advised that [the stepmother] made him clean up pee on the toilet with the tooth brush he uses to clean his teeth,” Williams wrote.

The boy also told Williams that he’s only fed dinner, and he was taken out of public school because the stepmother and boyfriend were afraid someone would notice the telltale signs of abuse or that he would tell a teacher.

Deputies went to Howell’s home and knocked multiple times before anyone answered. When he opened the door, deputies smelled a strong odor of marijuana smoke, according to Williams’ report. Neither Howell nor the stepmother knew the boy had left the house, Williams wrote.

According to the arrest report, Howell admitted he beats the boy “when he does something wrong.” Asked about the bruises on the boy’s hips, Howell said the boy “moved during the beating.”

The stepmother told deputies that she “is not in great health so Randall is the one who beats” the boy, according to the report. She said she home-schools the boy because he was having trouble at school.

Deputies noticed little clothing inside the boy’s closet. The stepmother said she took his clothes “to discipline him,” Williams wrote.

DCF released the following statement:

To make a report of known or suspected child abuse, neglect or abandonment or a report of abuse, neglect or exploitation of a vulnerable adult, please contact the Florida Abuse Hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by reporting online at www.FloridaAbuseHotline.com, faxing your report to 1-800-914-0004, or by calling 1-800-962-2873 (711 for Florida Relay Services). If you suspect a child or vulnerable adult is in immediate danger, call 911.

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