Texas boy tied up, forced to sleep in shed by cruel grandmother and her boyfriend for two weeks
The six-year-old later told cops that the abuse began when he 'got out of school for this corona thing'
DALLAS, TEXAS: A six-year-old child was allegedly tied up for two weeks inside a shed by his grandmother and her boyfriend during the coronavirus pandemic.
53-year-old Esmeralda Lira was arrested by Dallas law enforcement on Mother's Day after police were tipped off about the alleged abuse of her grandson, per Dallas Morning News.
64-year-old Jose Balderas, Lira's live-in boyfriend, told authorities they were punishing the child for stealing food.
According to WFLA, the frightened boy was found with his hands tied behind his back. He later told cops that the abuse began when he “got out of school for this corona thing."
When police initially inquired about the child, Lira told them her grandson was with his mother. However, a man residing behind her Pleasant Grove property told them the boy was being kept in her shed.
Lira later told detectives that locking up the child was a one-time thing, but Balderas then revealed he'd been held there for two weeks.
Speaking to Dallas Morning News, cops said the little boy — who cannot be identified for legal reasons — did not need hospitalization.
As a result of the incident, Lira's grandson, his seven-year-old sister, and four-year-old brother have now been removed from her residence.
She and Balderas now face felony charges for endangering a child.
According to KSN Local 4, the alleged abuse is currently being investigated by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
According to Texas DFPS, child abuse calls have decreased because children aren't regularly being seen by doctors, teachers, and police officers during the pandemic.
Marissa Gonzales of DFPS told the outlet how "we all should be looking out for the children in our community, especially now that they’re not in school."
Hospital medics in the nearby city of Fort Worth highlighted a sharp increase in child abuse cases in March.
Speaking to NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth, Dr. Jamye Coffman, medical director at Cook's Children Hospital, revealed how they usually see eight cases a month, but they have dealt with at least six such incidents in a span of seven days.
"There's no way for us to directly link that, but that's the concern," Coffman said of how the pandemic may have caused an uptick in child abuse cases. "Probably these families are under more stress related to financial issues, whether it's for lost jobs or concerns for their jobs."
"We also saw similar types of things happen during the recession where, in our trauma department, the most common cause of trauma death in children was motor vehicle collisions," she explained. "During the recession, that changed to abusive head trauma, and I don't want to see that again."
The spike in cases at Cook Children’s was described as "heartbreaking" by Shellie McMillon, chief program officer at the Alliance For Children.
“One thing we know is that educators, our school professionals are the largest group of people who report suspected child abuse and that makes sense. They’re usually with kids a good portion of the day,” McMillon told NBC DFW. “Now that kids are not in school, they’re at home — a lot of times, they don’t have that, what we call a trusted adult, to maybe tell about what’s going on.”
McMillion insisted that parents or caretakers shouldn't hesitate to ask for help if they are stressed amid the ongoing crisis.
“I think, too, if you’re feeling really stressed and really feeling anger towards your kids — it’s OK, as long as they’re in a safe place, right? Kind of a safe spot in the house walk away and calm down,” she said. “It’s OK to leave your child if they’re crying or something, if you feel like you’re at wit’s end.”