An Arkansas mom-of-five has been arrested along with her boyfriend for allegedly routinely handcuffing her 8-year-old son to a chair overnight and starving him, PEOPLE confirms.
Melissa Miranda, 33, and her boyfriend, Josue Tovias, 28, of Fayetteville, were arrested Saturday and charged with second-degree domestic battering, aggravated assault on a family member, kidnapping, tampering with physical evidence, terroristic threatening and endangering the welfare of a minor, according to online records from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Tovias was also charged with permitting child abuse.
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Miranda is pregnant with Tovias’s child and has four other children, ages 5 to 17, who are in the custody of the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services, the arrest report states, local station FOX16 reports. Tovias is also the father of Miranda’s 5-year-old child, the report states.
During the investigation, detectives learned that Miranda was allegedly “jealous that her mother loved the victim more … than her mother loved her” and consequently was “singling the victim out” for bad treatment, the arrest report states, according to Arkansas Online.
Teachers: Boy’s Appearance Changed Dramatically, and He Would Hoard Food
The boy’s alleged plight came to authorities’ attention when the DHS asked police on Jan. 24 to help them investigate a hotline report stating that a boy was being handcuffed to furniture and being denied food as punishment at home, according to an arrest report, Arkansas Online reports.
Teachers and staff members at the Owl Creek School told detectives the boy’s appearance had changed dramatically since November. They said he had become “very thin,” the report states, according to local station KATV.
“His eyes had become sunken, as had his cheeks, and his skin tone changed,” the report states, citing staff members’ statements.
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He was also seen bleeding through his shirt and said his legs hurt when he walked, the report continues.
He would often hoard food, steal food from other students and ask for extra food and would cry if he didn’t get any, the report states.
The child also suffered from incontinence at school and often smelled of urine, staff members told detectives, according to the report.
Police questioned Miranda’s 17-year-old daughter, who gave investigators an audio recording of Miranda disciplining the boy because he stole candy, FOX 16 reports.
She allegedly threatened him, saying “I’ll cut you,” and allegedly told him she would abandon him in the cold and have him arrested for stealing candy, the report states.
After hearing the recording, police arrested the couple when they arrived to pick up the children from school, the report states.
Her Alleged Confession
During questioning, Miranda allegedly confessed to handcuffing the child to furniture and denying food to him, the arrest report states.
Miranda allegedly told police that the child did not eat dinner “on average” four nights a week for several months after he complained about her cooking, the report states. Allegedly paraphrasing Miranda, the child “liked everyone’s cooking more than hers,” the report states.
She allegedly told police she would handcuff the victim to a desk in their living room to keep him from eating “junk food” overnight when he refused to eat her food, even though she described it as “flavorful,” the report states.
When he kept having accidents on the living room carpet because he couldn’t get to the bathroom, she allegedly said she made him sleep on a black plastic garbage bag, the report states.
Both suspects are being held in the Washington County Detention Center in lieu of a $50,000 bond each. They are scheduled to appear in court Feb. 28.
It is unclear whether Miranda or Tovias have hired attorneys. PEOPLE’s calls for comment to the Fayetteville Police Department were not immediately returned.