FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — A Fayetteville couple was arrested after police say they starved and handcuffed an eight-year-old boy.
The Fayetteville Police Department said Josue Tovias, 28, and Melissa Miranda, 33, were taken into custody on Friday. Tovias faces charges of permitting the abuse of a child, first-degree endangering the welfare of a minor and more. Miranda faces charges of kidnappings, first-degree terroristic threatening, second-domestic battery and more.
On January 24, Fayetteville police assisted the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services with a welfare check on the boy at school. DHS took a photo of the boy’s wrist, which had an apparent injury.
Teachers at Owl Creek School had reported seeing a change in the boy’s appearance over the last several months. He had become “very thin” and didn’t look like himself, an arrest report states. He complained of his legs hurting when he walked and was seen bleeding through the shirt on his back. The boy would also become emotional about food and would frequently ask for extra food, crying if he didn’t get any, police said.
Tovias denied knowing anything about abuse occurring in the boy’s home, according to authorities. Miranda confessed to handcuffing the child to furniture, police said.
An arrest report states investigators learned the victim would be handcuffed to furniture and denied food almost daily. When given food, it was in small amounts. Police learned while the rest of the family ate, the child was left to sit alone or read a book.
“This is just one of those situations where it’s hard for investigators to investigate something like this and all we want to get out of this is justice for the child,” said Sgt. Tony Murphy.
All children in the household were taken into DHS custody, police said.
Natalie Tibbs, director of the Children’s Advocacy Center in Benton County says teachers and coaches need to know how to spot abuse.
“You have to know that these children are coming from a potential very difficult circumstances and we cannot assume they are living healthy lives outside of our school,” Tibbs said.
Sgt. Murphy said if someone thinks a child is being abused, they need to alert authorities.
“If they start to look really skinny or they just look stressed out or they’re having issues with hoarding food you know just big changes, something’s going on in someone’s life and they need to let someone know,” Sgt. Murphy said.