A Florida man once acquitted of killing a toddler is accused of torturing a 2-year-old girl in various ways, including putting a shock collar around her neck, then sharing recordings of the abuse with others.
Andrew Bennett Ross Celaius, 37, has been charged with aggravated child abuse and numerous other charges after the child’s mother, Celaius' girlfriend, took her to the hospital believing marks around the toddler's neck may have been signs of ringworm, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said at a news conference held Wednesday.
Emergency room doctors said that the child didn’t have ringworm; rather she had been burned around her neck. They observed that she was the victim of alleged abuse and immediately contacted the sheriff’s office.
Deputies say they found alarming cell phone and home surveillance footage of Celaius abusing the toddler in various ways. In some, he’s allegedly using a flame torch to burn her or hitting her with bottles to get her to wake up. In others, he allegedly shot her with an Airsoft gun. As for the shock collar allegation, the sheriff’s office said that’s on video too and the girl can be heard screaming and shrieking when she is shocked.
“You can hear the sounds of the dog collar being activated and the shrieking and the pain that the child has suffered as a result of this,” Chief Deputy Chip Simmons said at the Wednesday presser.
Oddly, authorities say Celaius is wearing a werewolf mask in at least some of the videos.
Celaius was found hanging in his cell Wednesday night, hours after the police news conference, according to WEAR-TV in Pensacola. He survived that possible suicide attempt.
Morgan said that footage may have intentionally been shared with others and, if so, additional charges will be filed.
"There's no words to describe why someone would hurt and intentionally damage and harass someone … just trying to sleep. It's a terrible thing to see," Simmons said.
Simmons called the alleged abuse in the video “systematic harassment if not torture.”
Officials do not know how long the alleged abuse has been going on.
"It's the things nightmares are made of," Morgan said. "No child should ever be subjected to this."
The toddler’s mother was arrested and charged with neglect but the sheriff’s department says they believe she didn’t know about the abuse.
Deputies say a second man destroyed cell phones belonging to Celaius at the suspect's request. Eric Everett Furnans, 36, was charged with various drug offenses, but has not yet been charged with destroying evidence. His bail was set at $60,000.
Celauis was granted a combined bond of just over $2.5 million, but he won’t be able to get out because of parole violations.
This isn’t the first time Celaius has been accused of heinous crimes involving a child. He was actually acquitted in 2006 of murder in the death another 2-year-old, deputies say. Officials said at the presser that the circumstances in the 2006 case were very similar to the current one.
Both men are expected to appear in court on May 23.
It’s not clear if any of the arrested have lawyers who can speak on their behalf at this time.
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