Neighbor recalls Myakka City child possibly looking through trash for food
Child protection investigators were called to 12-year-old Eduardo Posso’s Myakka City home five times in about an 18-month period, but say they could not substantiate reports that the boy, who authorities say was severely emaciated when he died last week in Indiana, was being abused.
The child’s father, Luis Posso, and step-mother, Dayan Median Flores, were arrested in Monroe County, Ind., after the child’s death on child neglect and other charges. They could face additional charges, including murder, as the investigation continues, according to officials there.
The reports that Eduardo was being abused came from the boy’s grandmother, his school and anonymous tipsters. The most recent report came last November.
Each time, investigators say they found no signs neglect or abuse, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, which handles child welfare cases in the county for the Florida Department of Children and Families. In two of the incidents, Eduardo’s bruises were explained as a result of a juggling accident and am attempted flip on a trampoline, according to incident reports.
Eduardo was last seen by investigators at the sheriff’s office on Dec. 3. He spoke with a detective and a child protection investigator and denied that he was being abused.
“He was healthy and seemingly happy,” sheriff’s office spokesman Randy Warren said on Thursday.
A photo taken at the sheriff’s office that day does show the boy smiling.
Two days later, Posso and Median Flores withdrew the boy and his siblings from Myakka City Elementary School and soon thereafter moved the family out of town.
Neighbors of the family said they suspected Eduardo was being abused.
Despite his parents’ attempts to keep Eduardo and his three siblings, 9, 5 and 2, isolated inside the efficiency apartment near Myakka City where they lived, neighbors said they could hear verbal abuse and watched as the eldest boy was singled out and forced to do manual labor.
“I knew that they were mean to him, but I never in a million years thought they could starve that boy to death,” the family’s neighbor Karen Graham said on Thursday, breaking down in sobs.
Eduardo was declared dead on May 24 after his father took him to Bloomington Hospital in Indiana. The boy was so emaciated that he only weighed about 50 to 55 pounds and had zero percent body fat, officials said.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office was called to the hospital by medical staff because of the signs of possible abuse.
Posso, 32, and Median Flores, 26, are charged with multiple counts of felony child neglect and one count each of confinement. Posso is also charged with domestic battery. The couple may be facing additional charges, including possibly murder, pending the results of an autopsy.
The children had been traveling with the couple, who are circus performers, and were in Indiana promoting a show by Cirque Italia, based out of Manatee County. The couple were not performers with that circus, however, according to Cirque Italia and detectives.
When detectives searched the motel room in Bloomington where the family had been staying, they found restraints, a dog’s shock collar and a web-based video surveillance system. On the couple’s cell phones detectives found an app for the security system with photos and videos showing the boy restrained to a bathtub.
After news of Eduardo’s death broke locally on Wednesday, some of the strange behavior Graham had witnessed made sense in hindsight, she said.
“I remember leather restraints, them carrying them out and putting them in the back of the car when they left. I just thought that was really strange and thought maybe it was part of their circus act or something,” Graham said. “But now I think about that and think if that was going on here.”
But there was another incident that stuck out in her memory.
“They used to leave the trash out and we’d get really upset because skunks and stuff would get into it,” Graham explained. “One day when I was coming back, I seen him picking up the garbage.”
Upset, she told her husband, who began yelling at Posso for forcing the boy to pick up trash instead of doing it himself, she said.
“I didn’t think about it at the time, but as we were driving by, he seemed to be taking extra care of some things and I think he was wiping them off so he could eat them.” Graham said as she began to sob again. “It didn’t make sense at the time.”
Graham, along with her husband, lived next door to the family in a row of efficiencies on the back side of a Dakin Dairy farm in Myakka. Her husband is a farm-hand on the farm.
The couple used to live farther away from the family when Graham’s husband was a seasonal farm-hand. But when they returned last year to stay permanently, they moved into the unit right next door to Eduardo’s family.
Jerry Dakin, owner of Dakin Dairy, said the company had no record of Posso ever working for the company.
Graham said she finally got a peek inside the home when the family was getting ready to move out. Median Flores was selling the refrigerator and giving away the food in the home.
“They had a big white cupboard in their kitchen and they had a lock on it. I thought that was strange, too,” Graham said.
There was no lack of food in the home, however. But Eduardo was often seen running around wearing shoes that were all taped up. Graham asked him his shoe size one day and if she could buy him a new pair.
“The very next day he had brand new pair of shoes, so I know his parents were listening or he said something, because if I hadn’t said anything, he probably wouldn’t have gotten new shoes,” she said.
Graham and her husband would frequently sneak the children candy or leave a bag of toys for them.
In interviews with detectives in Indiana, Posso and Median Flores claimed that Eduardo acted up more than the other children..Da But Graham remembers him as a very well-behaved boy.
“Eduardo was a fantastic juggler. He had a smile that would brighten a room. He was such a good kid. He would stand in the driveway and juggle for hours and hours and hours trying to impress his dad,” Graham said. “It was never good enough. He was just heartbroken.”
The boy was forced to move all of his father’s heavy circus performing equipment daily so he could sweep the porch of the apartment where the equipment was kept, Graham said.
The other children were never allowed out, so Graham said she didn’t even realize the couple had four children until she saw news reports of Eduardo’s death. Once, her husband saw the couple’s daughter come out to grab something off the clothes line, and he waved at her, she said.
Graham described what happened next.
Posso told her husband, “We don’t appreciate any interaction with our daughters,” to which her husband responded, “Well, I take offense to that.”
Posso whipped back, “Well, you can take it anyway you want, but I don’t want you to wave or even glance at my daughters ever again.”
Posso could be heard regularly at night, yelling at his wife and the children, mostly in Spanish. Eduardo appeared to live terrified, afraid to even pet Graham’s dog without keeping watch for his parents.
“He talked to us,” Graham said. “He would smile at us because he knew he had a friend next door, but he just never trusted me enough to talk to me. I wish he would have.”
Before the family moved away, Graham said her husband managed to speak to the boy privately, encouraging him to work hard in school and telling him he could be anything he wanted and get out of his situation.
“I would do anything for that to have turned out different,” Graham said. “I just loved him and so did my husband.”
Graham recalls hearing that child protection investigators had visited the family, but they never attempted to speak with her, she said.
The sheriff’s office has reviewed all five of their investigations since hearing of Eduardo’s death. Department officials, including Sheriff Rick Wells, are confident with how each investigation was handled, according to sheriff’s spokesman Warren.
“We did everything we could with what we observed and what we collected,” he said.