The young boy whose decomposing body was found hidden under the floorboards of a home in rural Arkansas had been dead for three months after his mother’s boyfriend drowned him in a toilet bowl, court documents say.
Ashley Rolland, 28, told investigators that her son Blu had been punished by her 33-year-old live-in boyfriend, Nathan Bridges, after the boy bit his finger. Rolland’s 6-year-old daughter was found in the home with severe burns to her scalp, which Rolland said were also caused by Bridges.
Both have been charged with capital murder, abuse of a corpse, tampering with physical evidence, and endangering the welfare of a minor. Rolland is also charged with two felony counts of permitting child abuse.
The age of the children, who are not biologically linked to Bridges, remains unclear. Karen Rolland, the children’s paternal grandmother, says Blu would have turned 6 on Dec. 16, the day his body was discovered. But court documents say he was born in 2017, which would have made him 5, which squares with the age of his burned sister, who is said to be 6.
According to the affidavit filed in Lee County Circuit Court, Ashley Rolland is cooperating with the officers, telling them her son was killed Sept. 9 after Bridges punished him for biting his finger. Rolland also said her daughter was burned after Bridges held her head under extremely hot water “as punishment” for bad behavior.
Rolland’s booking photo shows a fresh black eye, but police have not said how she got it. Bridges has so far refused to answer questions, according to NBC News.
The body of the boy was found after Rolland’s 57-year-old former mother-in-law alerted police after her son—the children’s biological father—attempted to pick the children up for a state-ordered custody visit on the morning of Dec. 16. When only the daughter–whose scalp burns were scabbed over—was there, the father grew suspicious. Police then visited the home at 10:45 p.m. for a welfare check and found freshly hammered floorboards and “disturbed soil,” according to the affidavit.
On a GoFundMe page set up to help pay for the burial of the dead child, Anita Widby, who identifies herself as a friend of the paternal grandmother, wrote that Karen Rolland had been trying to get custody of the children for more than a year. Widby also wrote that the surviving child has suffered unthinkable abuse.
“This child’s hair had been chopped off, she is malnourished, cracked ribs, and many many burns on her body in various stages of healing,” she wrote on the plea for funds. “These injuries are presumed to be from her mother and the mother’s boyfriend. Later, Karen was notified that the youngest grandchild’s decomposing body had been found.”