It was a slow and painful death for a 12-year-old Indiana boy chained and starved by his father and stepmother, according to authorities. "I cannot think of, in 30 years, a case like this. It's beyond anything I've worked," Monroe County Sheriff Brad Swain says, per NBC News, adding that officials involved "will be affected until the end of our career, let alone the end of our lives." Swain says staff at a Bloomington hospital alerted police to "signs of extreme abuse" after Eduardo Posso died less than 15 minutes after his May 24 arrival, per the Washington Post. He was "severely emaciated" with 0% body fat and bruises all over his body, according to a coroner. In the motel room occupied by Luis Posso, 33, and Dayan Median Flores, 26, officers say they found ankle and wrist chains and a shock collar, along with footage of Eduardo wearing the collar while restrained in the bathtub.
Authorities believe the couple left the boy in that condition, monitoring him with a webcam, while they passed out fliers for a traveling circus that paid them for promotion. The Bradenton Herald reports child welfare officials previously made multiple visits to the couple's Florida apartment, without finding proof of abuse. The pair were charged Friday with battery, confinement, and felony neglect of a child after allegedly admitting to abusing Eduardo because he "acted up more than the other kids"—two sons, aged 2 and 5, and a 9-year-old daughter, who were found healthy and are now in the care of child protective services. Authorities expect to apply murder charges following an autopsy. Though the suspects reportedly denied starving Eduardo, coroner Joni Shields says there were "definitely signs of severe starvation," per WTHR, which describes her as "holding back tears." (Read more child abuse stories.)