Arizona grandmother, husband arrested after boy found dead from suspected abuse
02/01/2022 11:47 am PST
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (TCD) -- A 51-year-old woman and her husband were taken into custody this week after her 11-year-old grandson was found unresponsive in a hotel.
Scottsdale Police said in a press conference that officers responded to the Extended Stay American Hotel on Sunday at 4:50 p.m. regarding a non-responsive person after a family member called 911. They found a juvenile victim and transported him to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. Police are investigating the boy’s death as a homicide. Arizona Republic reports police noted the boy suffered "significant injuries."
According to KNXV-TV, the boy’s biological grandmother, Stephanie Marie Davis, and her 33-year-old husband, Thomas James Desharnais, were arrested and charged with murder and two counts of child abuse. She is being held on $3.5 million cash bond, while Desharnais' bond is set at $1.5 million cash.
According to court documents obtained by KSAZ-TV, Davis told authorities that the victim struck himself with a wrench and also cut himself in his private area. She also reportedly said that the family was watching a movie when he struck himself with the wrench in his head. Davis then allegedly grabbed the victim and took away the wrench. According to KSAZ, Davis heard the victim later say "ow" in the bathroom before finding him injured in his private area.
Later on, Davis reportedly told authorities that the victim said he wanted to take a bath, so she ran one for him. She left him there, and according to KSAZ, she returned and found the juvenile lying on his side, with his face above the waterline of the tub. She reportedly drained the tub and performed CPR on the victim.
Detectives told KSAZ that Davis first said she left the bathroom for 15 minutes, but later said she had left the bathroom for only 60 seconds.
Her husband reportedly provided another account of what had happened. KSAZ reports that Desharnais said that on Jan. 29, he entered the hotel room and heard Davis in the bathroom, hitting the victim in the head with the wrench multiple times. He reportedly said the victim was naked in the bathtub during the assault. Afterward, KSAZ reports that Desharnais tried to slow the victim's head bleeding with paper towels.
Desharnais also told authorities that Davis cut a portion of skin off the victim's private areas with a knife, KSAZ reports, adding that Desharnais believed Davis did this to stop the victim's bed-wetting issues.
On Jan. 30, at approximately 4 p.m., Desharnais was reportedly playing video games when he heard whimpering from the victim.
Davis also reportedly starved the victim, but Desharnais would occasionally sneak him food.
According to KSAZ, Davis had struck the boys with a wooden broom, and would regularly pull the boys' hair when they would try to run away from her.
Desharnais also reportedly told told authorities Davis would use needle-nose pliers and pinch and bend the children's fingers backward.
A search warrant was executed at the hotel room on Jan. 31, and the evidence was consistent with Desharnais' account, KSAZ reports. Authorities reportedly found blood evidence, a hidden socket wrench hidden, a wooden broomstick, and needle-nose pliers. They also reportedly recovered two mattresses and two box springs with apparent dried blood, blood-stained pillows, a trash bag with human hair, and an animal shock collar, even though there were no pets in the room.
According to police, Davis and Desharnais are accused of first-degree murder and two counts of child abuse. Prosecutors had argued for no bond for Davis or Desharnais because of the severity of the crime, and the fact that neither are employed nor have a primary residence.
However, a judge set a cash-only bond of $3.5 million for Davis and a $1.5 million cash-only bond for Desharnais. Should either make bail, they will be placed under electronic monitoring, and neither will be allowed to have any contact with minors.
As the shocking incidents of abuse came to light, people living in the area sounded off.
"Everyone here is hurt that these kids were right under our noses being abused like that," said Barclay.
Davis, Desharnais, and her two grandchildren had been living at the hotel for three years, KPNX-TV reports. One of the hotel’s former employees said she called Arizona Department of Child Safety twice because she was concerned about their well-being.
According to KSAZ, the victim's biological mother is a suspect in a murder, and his half-brother's biological father is in prison for child molestation. Davis reportedly became more physically and verbally abusive towards both the victim and his half-brother over the past two to three months.
According to court documents obtained by KSAZ, "It's believed by [Desharnais] that [Davis] dislike the children because their mother ultimately is involved in the death of [Davis'] son. [Desharnais] believes that [Davis] physically abuses the children as a way to retaliate against the children's mother, who was part of her son's death."
Ex-employee Courtney Lage told KPNX, "It was very clear there was something wrong. They were visibly shaking. She would not let them reply to any questions. She was always answering for them."
She also reportedly saw the children stand outside with "We’ll work for food" signs.
The victim’s sibling was reportedly taken into protective custody.
- Child Death Investigation - Scottsdale Police Department via KNXV
- Grandmother, man arrested after 11-year-old died at Scottsdale hotel - KNXV
- Grandmother, husband arrested after 11-year-old boy found injured in Scottsdale dies - Arizona Republic
- 'It was very clear there was something wrong': Ex-hotel employee reported child abuse where 11-year-old boy died - KPNX
- Grandma, her husband accused of murder as Arizona investigators detail shocking abuse case - KSAZ
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