A man who was caring for his girlfriend’s 17-month-old son has been charged with killing the child.
The child, Luca Sholey, was found unresponsive Aug. 21 while under the supervision of his mother’s boyfriend, according to Holmes Beach police.
Police said the child’s body showed numerous signs of abuse.
David Vickers, 31, who was released from prison in May, already was back in jail Thursday on drug and theft-related charges. He was booked Wednesday on charges of second-degree murder and aggravated child abuse.
Vickers often stayed at home to baby-sit the child while the mother, Melissa Wolfe, worked two jobs seven days a week, according to investigators.
Luca was pronounced dead on Aug. 25, four days after Vickers called his girlfriend to tell her that she needed to come home in the 200 block of Peacock Lane because her little boy wasn’t breathing.
Luca was taken to Blake Medical Center and then airlifted in critical condition to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.
Luca’s death is believed to have been caused by asphyxiation.
According to the Holmes Beach Police Department, Vickers was in possession of multiple photos and three videos that are believed to have been taken shortly after Luca was abused on numerous occasions. One of the videos is 48 seconds long and depicts Luca “lying on his back on a mattress in significant respiratory distress,” an arrest report states.
Police questioned Vickers about the video, which he admitted that he took on Aug. 18, according to police. Vickers said he found Luca that way and wanted to document the event for Luca’s mother, but he didn’t attempt to call 911 at the time. According to an affidavit, Vickers said he handled the situation “poorly” and had used heroin earlier that day.
During the investigation, detectives found Luca was frequently abused. Medical examiners found evidence of six rib fractures in separate stages of healing. Two of them appeared to have happened about 10 days before Luca was pronounced dead.
Luca had recently been diagnosed with pink eye and thrush, an infection that allows a white rash to grow in the mouth. Both conditions were found to be misdiagnosed.
Luca’s pink eye and thrush were both determined to be caused by trauma to the eye and upper lip. Luca’s other injuries include bruising to the chest, a possibly fractured thumb, a thin hemorrhage in the brain and a liver injury.
An autopsy confirmed that Luca’s brain was swollen and that he had various stages of broken ribs, but further tests were required to determine the cause of death, according to police reports.
Vickers claimed that on the night of Aug. 21, the boy had fallen down the stairs while playing with his sister and hit his head, ultimately developing a brain injury. At 8:40 p.m., Vickers said he placed Luca down in bed on his back, then came back an hour later to find him face down in a pillow and beginning to turn blue. Vickers then called Luca’s mother and 911.
Medical experts say it would have been impossible for Luca to turn over on his own, as he would have been unconscious from the injury he suffered, according to police reports.
Doctors pronounced Luca brain dead on Aug. 25, but his parents kept him alive long enough to have his organs donated to those in need. Eric Sholey, Luca’s father, said his son’s organs saved the lives of two little girls and a 54-year-old man.
Vickers served a prison sentence from September 2014 until May 18 of this year after he was convicted of trafficking stolen property and defrauding a pawn broker.
Vickers is currently in Manatee County jail and being held without bond.
The Holmes Beach Police Department worked with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to conduct the criminal investigation. Another investigation is being handled by the sheriff’s office Child Protection Investigative Division, which handles all child welfare cases for the Florida Department of Children and Families in Manatee County.