An Idaho Falls woman has been arrested after her 5-year-old stepson told police about a series of abusive incidents that included choking, holding him underwater and starving him.
Lashauna Eskeets, 28, was arrested after her stepson was taken to the Idaho Falls Community Hospital where doctors determined his injuries were the result of abuse. Eskeets had originally claimed the victim had injured himself in a fall.
The child weighed just 35 pounds when brought to the hospital and the police report noted he was underweight. There was swelling around his head and eyes. A scan found a hematoma, a collection of blood outside of a blood vessel, and found evidence his ribs had been broken on both sides of his body. His right proximal humerus, the bone between his elbow and shoulder, had been broken and not set. Police also observed bruises around his neck, multiple bruises on his body and abrasion marks on his ankles.
An Idaho Falls Police Department detective contacted Idaho Child Protective Services. An investigator was sent to assist in a forensic interview.
The victim was originally reluctant to talk to law enforcement about his injuries, saying that Eskeets had been mad at him for eating cake and that he had fallen off a baby gate. He said Eskeets had spanked him for eating the cake.
The victim's father, who reportedly worked out of town and was away from home for weeks at the time, told the victim that Eskeets would not be able to punish him for telling the police what happened.
Police determined that when the victim said Eskeets was "spanking" him, she was actually hitting him on the head, according to the probable cause affidavit.
The victim said Eskeets would punish him by tying him up and putting him underwater in the sink.
The father told police he had no idea his son had been abused. The affidavit stated the father cried when police told him the details his son had reported.
During an interview with police, Eskeets said she had trouble raising the victim. She said he stole things and misbehaved, and that she kept the victim locked in his room while they lived in Arizona. She said she was struggling to love the victim and felt trapped. Over time, she said she was annoyed by the victim and that abusing him became easier.
"It was very clear that Lashauna actually hates (the victim,)" the detective wrote in the affidavit.
Eskeets admitted to hitting the victim when he struggled to learn numbers and shapes, and that she gave him a bloody nose. She said the victim's father and other family prevented her from seeing him until she apologized. Eskeets said she was eventually allowed to be alone with him again, but that she resumed hitting him in the head as punishment.
According to the affidavit, Eskeets said the abuse escalated over time. She began choking him by covering his mouth but would stop if he made noise, fearing a family member would look in and discover the abuse.
After the family moved to Idaho Falls in January 2019, there was no one to step in, according to Eskeets. She admitted to strangling her stepson and holding him underwater. She said sometimes the victim would fall unconscious from being suffocated. She also admitted to kicking the victim.
Eskeets said the most extreme abuse started within the last year.
"Lashauna wanted (the victim) to remember this and know it would happen again if he didn't listen to her," the detective wrote in his report.
The detective described the abuse in which Eskeets held the child underwater as "water torture." The detective wrote that Eskeets told him the victim would try to prevent the abuse by telling her he loved her and begging her not to hold him underwater.
"(The victim) would try turning off the water or kicking her away or pushing her away and that was when she started tying (the victim's) hands and legs," another section said.
Esteets estimated she had strangled the victim between 50 and 70 times since moving to Idaho Falls and had held him underwater 30 times.
The most recent incident happened on May 17, Eskeets birthday. She said the victim took some cake she made for herself, and that he fell off the baby gate. Sometime shortly before that, she said she broke his arm while pulling it. Esteets attempted to cover up his injuries, but the father took the victim to the hospital after seeing swelling in his neck.
Esteets was charged with six counts of felony injury to a child, punishable with up to 10 years in prison each, and one count of aggravated battery, punishable with up to 15 years in prison.
Eskeets' bond was set at $500,000. A no-contact order was issued between her and the victim. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. June 12 in the Bonneville County Courthouse.
The child has been taken to the Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City for treatment. Child Protective Services is reportedly looking into placing the victim and a younger sibling into foster care.