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A Florida couple is accused of fatally beating their 6-year-old son after they caught the child drinking from a toilet bowl on July 4th.
Larry Rhodes Jr., 22, and Bianca Blaise, 25, were both charged with second-degree murder in the death of the young boy, who was found unconscious inside a hotel room bathroom in Kissimmee, Florida in July, according to online court filings.
Police were dispatched to Knights Inn after receiving reports of an accidental drowning on July 4. The caller who tipped off authorities reported that the child’s “head was in the toilet like [they] were drinking water,” according to an arrest warrant obtained by Oxygen.com.
Upon arrival, deputies found Rhodes cradling his unresponsive son and the boy — who had brain damage, swollen eyes, a bloodied mouth, “fresh cuts” and facial bruising — was rushed to hospital. He was placed on life support but later succumbed to his injuries.
Authorities, however, quickly determined the child hadn’t died from drowning.
“That had nothing to do with why he wasn’t breathing,” Osceola County Sheriff Marcos R. Lopez said at a Wednesday press conference. “The reason he wasn’t breathing is because his parents got very angry that he was drinking out of the toilet and started to beat him. First, the mother beat him. Then the father started repeatedly punching this little boy with closed fists. He punched him multiple times. In the head and the stomach area. This was a 6-year-old child.”
Other hotel residents told law enforcement they heard a “thud” — believed to be the sound of the child falling — coming from the Florida couple’s roughly 15 minutes prior to deputies descending on the property. Blood spatter was also found in the hotel room.
Rhodes and Blaise initially denied physically abusing their six children and told investigators the 6-year-old had sustained his facial injuries during an “altercation between siblings,” per charging documents.
Blaise, however, allegedly eventually divulged to detectives that her husband had run out of his prescription schizophrenia medication in recent weeks and had become increasingly aggressive in disciplining their children.
She also allegedly said Rhodes frequently “whooped” their children on their buttocks — beating them with a sandal, his belt or his hands. Police say she also claimed that he sometimes disciplined their kids by forcing “them to share a large shirt,” according to the arrest warrant.
Under questioning, Blaise allegedly said she found her son on the day of his death with his “head in the toilet bowl,” as if he was drinking the toilet water. Police say the Florida mother told them she later heard Rhodes shouting at her son, which was followed by “three ‘claps.’” Blaise allegedly said then she exited the restroom to find her son on the floor by Rhodes, who picked the child up off the floor and ran a shower for the boy. Seconds later, Rhodes yelled for her to call 911.
Two of the couple’s other children — ages four and five — told investigators, however, that they saw their parents beating the 6-year-old with closed fists as his head was in the toilet, the sheriff said.
“Maybe he was thirsty,” Lopez added. “He went to the toilet. He was trying to survive. Mama caught him and the poor guy paid the price.”
Child protective services since took custody of Rhodes’ and Blaise’s five surviving children, who also allegedly showed signs of systemic child abuse.
The couple was each also slapped with aggravated manslaughter of a child charge and six additional child abuse charges. Rhodes also faces a separate battery charge.
According to police, Rhodes and Blaise had been dating for approximately seven years and had moved into room 510 at the Knights Inn — along with their six children — in March.
Rhodes and Blaise are both being held without bond at an Osceola County detention center, according to online jail records obtained by Oxygen.com. They haven’t yet entered pleas on their behalf. They are scheduled to be arraigned in court on Aug. 23 at 8:30 a.m.
Brock Shields, Blaise’s defense attorney, declined to comment on the case when reached on Friday afternoon. Attorney information for Rhodes wasn’t immediately available, though he was appointed a public defender, according to court filings.
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