A Las Vegas man has been charged after police found the body of a four-year-old boy in a freezer after his sibling passed a note to her teacher that prompted a homicide investigation.
The sister gave the note to a teacher at her elementary school the morning of Feb. 22, according to a police press release.
The note was written by the children’s mother, who said she was being held against her will by her boyfriend in her Las Vegas home and didn’t know the whereabouts of her son, police told reporters.
The mother “stated that she didn’t know where her younger child was and that she believed he was deceased,” Las Vegas homicide Lt. Ray Spencer told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
The teacher alerted local police, who immediately set up surveillance on the home. When a couple left the home later that day, police pulled their car over.
Brandon Toseland, 35, was charged with two counts of first-degree kidnapping.
Police also spoke with the mother, who told them she hadn’t seen her son since Dec. 11 of last year.
After arresting Toseland, who is not related to the children, police executed a search warrant of the home, and that’s when they found the child’s body in a freezer in the garage.
On Wednesday, Toseland was rebooked on a murder charge.
According to the Gazette-Journal, the mother told police that Toseland did not allow her to leave the house and barred her from entering the garage.
A lawyer speaking for the woman and her family told The Associated Press she endured months under physical, sexual and emotional control of a man who told her he would kill her children if she ever left him.
“There was never a time when her daughter was with her that she was not locked in a room, bound or handcuffed,” attorney Stephen Stubbs said of the mother. “There was never an opportunity to take her daughter and run.”
Stubbs said the mother knew Toseland as an acquaintance of her husband, the father of her children, before the man died in January 2021 of an unspecified respiratory illness.
After the three moved into Toseland’s house in March 2021, he “slowly and methodically” increased control over them, Stubbs said: covering windows, using video surveillance, taking the mother’s cellphone, cutting her ties to her family and handling her social media.
Although handcuffed to the inside of the car during vehicle trips, the mother found a pen and pad of sticky notes in the car and was able, when Toseland wasn’t looking, “to write notes, little by little, and hide them,” Stubbs said in a statement. On Tuesday, her daughter was able to deliver about nine little notes to her teacher.
Toseland made an initial court appearance Wednesday before a Las Vegas judge who ordered him to remain jailed pending an appearance Thursday on the open murder charge.
Police said they continue to investigate and that the boy’s body has been sent to the county coroner to determine a cause of death.
— With files from The Associated Press