LEOMINSTER — During this year’s harsh winter, Amber Loiselle said she often dreamed of a relaxing summer. She imagined she’d spend warm days chasing her two children around her grandparents’ lawn at their Leominster home, where she lives.
She bought a pink inflatable pool and researched new ice cream shops to visit. Her son loves soft-serve and the way “it drips down his chin,” she said. Her 1-year-old daughter likes anything sweet.
But instead, on Sunday she stood barefoot in the yard, exhausted, just back from another hospital visit with her 7-year-old son, who slipped into a coma after allegedly being starved and beaten by his father. The Globe is withholding the child’s name to protect his privacy.
The inflatable pool was empty, and weeds had begun to grow up over a Little Tikes car’s wheels on the front lawn. She’s been forced to lower her expectations, she said. Now, she just wants to hear her son laugh again.
Hardwick police found Loiselle’s son unresponsive and badly bruised in his father’s home on July 14. He was rushed to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, authorities said. His father, 26-year-old Randall E. Lints, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on July 21 to charges of assault and battery on a child, reckless endangerment of a child, and permitting injury to a child at his arraignment. His attorney could not be reached for comment. Lints is scheduled to return to court Wednesday.
Loiselle was angry as she spoke Sunday, disappointed and frustrated about the horrors her son has endured.
“My son was targeted, he was beaten, and he was left to starve,” she said. “He almost lost his life. And there is no logical explanation for it.”
Loiselle said she began dating Lints when she was a teenager, and in 2007, she became pregnant. She was 19.
Her boyfriend’s attitude changed when her pregnancy began showing, she said.
“He would call me and threaten to cut [the baby] out of my stomach,” she said.
When Lints became physically aggressive later that year, shoving Loiselle to the ground, she said, she was granted a restraining order in Fitchburg District Court.
The couple broke up and her son was born in January 2008. He didn’t meet his father until six years later.
After the baby was born, Loiselle said, she had a very busy schedule and often only saw him briefly after work, before going out with friends at night. Her mother primarily cared for him during this time.
“I was 19, and I was stupid,” she said. “But I never abandoned my child. I love him. He’s my world.”
She worked full time at a local restaurant and as a secretary at Bridge Over Troubled Waters, a Boston organization dedicated to helping runaway, homeless, and high-risk youths, to support her family, she said.
Some news media outlets have noted Loiselle’s connection with the center, and said she was part of the residential program in Boston. Loiselle said this is not true. “I am not a drug addict. I am not a drunk,” she said. “I was just young.”
In the years that followed, her grandparents took custody of the boy. Loiselle declined to provide specifics about this, as she plans to pursue legal action.
On June 30, 2014, Lints gained custody, and the boy went to live with the father, his father’s girlfriend, and her three children in Hardwick, an hour away from the family he grew up with, Loiselle said.
In the months that followed, Loiselle said she visited her son every weekend. His “upbeat and hilarious” personality began to dim, she said. His requests for Shamrock shakes, his favorite treat from McDonald’s, became less frequent. His hockey stick went untouched.
“I would visit him and hear that he was locked in his room all day,” she said. “I’d bring him toys and his father would throw them out.”
Also during this time, she said, she noticed her son was losing weight. State Police said the boy weighed 38½ pounds when he was found.
“Like any loving mother does, I took a million photos of that kid,” she said. “I started to notice him getting thinner. I knew things weren’t OK.”
She said she filed complaints to local police that went unanswered. His school requested that he be removed from his father’s custody because he would show up to class “cold and hungry,” Loiselle said. She felt helpless.
“It breaks my heart,” she said. “I can’t bear the thought of my child so alone.”
Loiselle said she believes Lints singled out her son for harsh treatment.
“There are three other little children living in that apartment,” she said. “They’re fine. And my son almost died. What does that tell you?”
Since her son was admitted to the hospital earlier this month, Loiselle said she has barely left his side. His recovery will be a long journey, she said, but every day he shows improvement.
As of Sunday he had fluttered his eyes three times, she said, beaming. “We all want to see those baby blues,” she said.
The bruises on his face are fading, and his kidneys are improving, she said, but he is still in a coma.
“This probably sounds strange . . . but it’s beautiful to watch him be reborn,” she said. “There’s something new every day. I’m watching him grow into the little man he is going to become.”