The 7-year-old Hardwick boy who fell into a coma two weeks ago after his father allegedly starved and dehydrated him had been kept alone in his bedroom, placed on a strict, sugarless diet that sharply restricted fluids, and forced to stay home from school as punishment for misbehavior, according to new court documents.
Randall Lints, who is accused of critically abusing the boy, did not allow his son to be in the living room where three other children in the home watched television and played video games, and had placed an alarm on the boy’s bedroom door to alert him if he left, police said. Police said that Lints may also have monitored his son’s room with a camera that could be accessed with his cellphone.
The disturbing new details, disclosed this week in court records, shed light on the boy’s harsh home life and the circumstances that led to his hospitalization July 14. When the boy arrived, he weighed just 38 pounds, and a doctor said he had lost about 15 pounds in recent months. He had been badly bruised, especially on the head, and his feet appeared to have been burned, court records show.
A social worker with the state’s child protection agency visited the boy’s home in late June, just two weeks before he was hospitalized, raising questions about whether the boy should have been taken into state custody for protection. The father and his son had also been seen three times this month by staff from an authorized service provider, according to the state’s Department of Children & Families.
DCF has said it became involved with the family in February and is reviewing the case, as is the state’s child advocate.
In a statement, agency spokeswoman Andrea Grossman said: “We are deeply concerned about this child and the Department is conducting a thorough review of this case and will take any appropriate action to continually improve the supervision of the children in its care. These reviews will examine the three visits the child received from the independent care providers as well as the DCF worker’s visit and the findings will be made public.”
The latest court documents did not explicitly identify which provider had seen the boy.
But police noted that “several state and private organizations” were involved with the family, including Catholic Charities and LUK Inc., a social service agency in Fitchburg, and that several people interviewed by police after the boy was hospitalized said they were concerned about the boy’s nutrition, police said.
It’s unclear whether workers who visited the family had previously conveyed those concerns.
Staff members from these groups told police Lints was very strict with his son, and they appeared aware of his disciplinary approach.
In a statement Tuesday, the chief executive of LUK said staff members have fully cooperated with law enforcement during their investigation and that “no child should ever experience cruelty, abuse, or neglect.”
He declined to comment further, citing the family’s privacy.
Catholic Charities of Worcester declined to comment and referred questions to the DCF.
The new documents also confirmed accounts from neighbors that Lints’s girlfriend and her three children, ages 3, 2, and 6 months, also had lived in the apartment. Lints, 26, is the father of the two younger children.
The girlfriend told police she had moved out because she was concerned about the 7-year-old’s behavior toward the three children, according to the report. She described one incident where the boy “was caught strangling and hitting a sibling.”
In an eight-page affidavit for a warrant to search Lints’s home, State Police wrote that the boy faced intense isolation and discipline from Lints, who also “strictly controlled” his fluid intake to prevent him from wetting his pants.
“Harsh physical discipline and deprivation are a significant likelihood,” the doctor wrote. “Both a sustained pattern of calorie deprivation and an acute event of water deprivation.”
The new details were first reported Monday by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Lints, who has been held without bail since his arrest on assault and endangerment charges last week, was due back in court Wednesday, but the hearing has been postponed until next month. His lawyer declined to comment Tuesday.
In an interview with police on July 14, the day the boy was hospitalized, Lints’s girlfriend, Alexandrea Chadwick, said the 7-year-old boy has significant behavioral issues and a history of injuring himself.
Because of the boy’s behavior, Lints was strict, limiting sugar intake and putting him on a strict daily schedule.
Lints limited his son’s fluid intake because he was prone to urinating in his clothes and on the floor, Chadwick said.
As punishment, Lints would make him clean the floor by hand and stay in his room.
Doctors said the boy’s knees and hands were injured from exposure to bleach.
Chadwick could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
If his son had no clean clothes, he was not allowed to go to school, police said. As punishment, he was not allowed to do his homework.
The boy “enjoyed and did very well in school and also appeared to enjoy doing homework,” police wrote.
Police were told the boy had no problems using the bathroom and had no accidents anywhere besides home.
Many of those interviewed also told police Lints never allowed others to be alone with his son, and that the boy looked to his father “for guidance on how to answer questions and what to say.”
The boy’s mother, Amber Loiselle, said she would often bring food and toys for him, but that the toys would be gone by her next visit.
On Sunday, Loiselle told the Globe she noticed her son was getting thinner and knew “things weren’t OK.” The Globe is not naming the boy to protect his privacy.
The boy had been living with his grandmother until June 2014, when Lints was granted sole custody. Lints assumed custody after learning the boy’s grandmother planned to adopt him, Loiselle told police.
On Sunday, Loiselle told the Globe her son remains in a coma, but has shown signs of improvement.
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Note: This story was updated Wednesday to include a comment from the Department of Children & Families. The agency had declined to comment on Tuesday.