BARTOW, Fla. — Authorities on Friday upgraded charges against a couple from Bartow after a 3-year-old with open sores and severe injuries died earlier in the month, according to Polk County Sheriff's Office.
Takesha Williams, 24, and Efrem Allen, Jr., 25, face charges of aggravated manslaughter of a child as it was learned the two failed to contact a health care professional as the 3-year-old's health sharply declined between May 11-12, deputies said.
Williams and Allen initially faced charges of negligent child abuse causing great harm.
Deputies say the couple noticed during the morning of May 12 that the toddler was cold to the touch, his stomach was bloated and his pulse oximeter was malfunctioning, but waited until around 3 p.m. to call 911.
When emergency responders arrived at the house, they said the child "smelled of decomposition." The 3-year-old had large cuts on his buttocks so severe his colon was visible, deputies wrote in a statement. He also had several bed sores on his back.
The toddler was connected to a breathing machine, but he did not have a pulse. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he later died.
A doctor at Bartow Regional Health said the open sores were consistent with child neglect. It was noted that the sores were so severe they resulted in permanent disfigurement.
Deputies said in a statement that Allen had been taking care of the child with Williams during the timeframe in which the large open wounds originated and progressed.
The toddler, who had been injured in a drowning incident in 2020, had been seen by a home health nurse a month before his death but stopped receiving care after health care companies were switched, according to the sheriff's office.
Williams and Allen told deputies they noticed the bed sores forming but were afraid to contact help in the event their other children — a 2-year-old and a 10-month-old — would be taken away by the Florida Department of Children and Families.
They told authorities the toddler was not neglected.
“I’ve seen some truly horrific events in my long law enforcement career, but I have never, ever seen anything as sad, as bone-chilling, and as sickening as what this baby suffered before finally perishing from the despicable acts of these two criminals.” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement.