Editor's note: This story contains details of child neglect and abuse some readers might find disturbing.
In the last days of 12-year-old Eduardo Posso's life, he told his 9-year-old sister he just wanted to juggle and be free.
Instead, he grew weaker and more emaciated, restrained with chains and made to wear an electric dog shock collar in the bathtub of room 108 at the Economy Inn his father Luis Posso, 32, and stepmother Dayana Medina Flores, 25, were staying in with him and his three siblings, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Last Friday, at 2:52 a.m., Posso carried an unconscious Eduardo into the emergency room of IU Health Bloomington Hospital. Thirteen minutes later, he was pronounced dead.
A week after Eduardo's death, Posso and Flores appeared in court to enter preliminary pleas of not guilty at an initial hearing at the Charlotte T. Zietlow Justice Center in downtown Bloomington.
The pleas will become formal pleas of not guilty within 20 days unless Posso and Flores enter differently.
Both are charged with murder in addition to neglect of a dependent, criminal confinement and battery. They are being held without bail and were both assigned public defenders.
Posso and Flores worked as promoters for Cirque Italia, travelling state to state handing out fliers for the circus. Posso told Judge Marc Kellams the family lived from paycheck to paycheck.
Flores, who only speaks Spanish, was accompanied by interpreter Lisa Hernandez for her initial hearing. Flores sniffled as she walked into the courtroom.
Flores told police Eduardo became sick May 23, eventually becoming too weak to feed himself or form coherent sentences. Early in the morning of May 24, Eduardo was cold to the touch, unresponsive and wasn’t breathing. Posso and Flores decided then to send him to the hospital with Posso.
At the hospital, Posso was unable to explain what was wrong with Eduardo, only describing him as skinny.
At a Tuesday press conference, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jennifer Allen said Eduardo had 0% body fat. He weighed about 50 pounds.
Posso and Flores were sent to the sheriff’s office for interviews based on the condition of Eduardo’s body. He was severely emaciated and covered in bruises, lacerations and ulcers.
A later autopsy revealed signs of starvation, neglect and physical abuse.
Posso admitted to spanking Eduardo with a leather belt, a flip flop and his hand in an interview with police at the hospital, but denied withholding food from the child.
The family is originally from Florida, and Flores told police they have no permanent address and moved from place to place every couple of weeksfor work and lived out of hotel rooms. The family had been living at the Economy Inn for about a week.
Police searched Posso’s cell phone, hotel room and car. A text in Spanish sent between Posso and Flores’ cell phones on April 16 was translated to read, “Eduardo was almost out of the chains.”
A search of the hotel room discovered metal chains, cordage, restraint cuffs, padlocks, an electric shock dog collar and a wireless surveillance camera. The items were found underneath the box springs of one of the two beds in the hotel room. The camera had been clamped to the towel bar inside the bathroom, according to an interview with a housekeeper at the hotel.
Flores told police she and Posso would use the surveillance camera to watch Eduardo while they were handing out fliers for the circus, leaving him chained or tied in the bathroom.
A video discovered on Flores’ phone by police recorded May 19 in Kokomo, Indiana, showed Eduardo chained to the washcloth bar in the bathtub with the shock collar around his neck.
In the video, Eduardo’s 9-year old sibling enters the bathroom and looks at him before turning around and walking out. Flores later enters the bathroom and appears to ignore Eduardo in the bathtub.
The other children in the family, aged 9, 5, and 2, displayed no signs of abuse or malnourishment, according to the probable cause affidavit.
The 9-year-old child said in an interview her brother stopped eating and would be punished for refusing to eat by Posso and Flores, who were trying to give him some sort of medication.
The 5-year-old boy drew a stick figure portrait of the family but didn’t include Eduardo, initially denying his existence. He eventually told a child advocacy interviewer Eduardo was "bad" and not part of the family.
Posso’s next court appearance is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. July 22 for a pre-trial conference. Flores’ first pre-trial conference is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. July 24. A trial date of Nov. 25 has been scheduled for both Posso and Flores.