LAS VEGAS (AP) — A note that a Las Vegas schoolgirl gave her teacher saying her mother was being held captive and thought the girl’s brother was dead led to the discovery of the boy’s body in a garage freezer and the arrest of the mother’s boyfriend on murder and kidnapping charges, authorities said Wednesday.
Brandon Lee Toseland, 35, was arrested Tuesday after police saw him leave his house with the mother in a vehicle in which officers also found handcuffs, Las Vegas homicide Lt. Ray Spencer said.
A lawyer speaking for the woman and her family told The Associated Press she endured months in physical, sexual and emotional control of a man who told her he would kill her children if she ever left him.
More than 10 weeks after she last saw her son, she resorted to sending a message with her daughter to school.
“There was never a time when her daughter was with her that she was not locked in a room, bound or handcuffed,” attorney Stephen Stubbs said of the mother. “There was never an opportunity to take her daughter and run.”
AP is not naming the mother or children to avoid identifying a victim of sexual abuse. Stubbs said the mother does not want her name made public.
Spencer said she told detectives Toseland sometimes used restraints to keep her in his custody, and that she had not seen her 4-year-old son since Dec. 11, when she said Toseland told her the boy had become sick and “that it was too late.”
“I remember that quote,” Spencer told AP. “There are still a lot of questions that we don’t have answers to.”
Later, Toseland told the mother the boy was dead, police said in Toseland’s arrest report, “and said she would not be allowed to see his body because he would lose his freedom.” The report noted that Toseland never called police or paramedics.
Stubbs said the mother knew Toseland as an acquaintance of her husband, the father of her children, before the man died in January 2021 of an unspecified respiratory illness. Stubbs said the girl is now 7.
After the three moved into Toseland’s house in March 2021, he “slowly and methodically” increased control over them, Stubbs said: covering windows; using video surveillance; taking the mother’s cellphone; cutting her ties to her family; handling her social media.
“The mother was physically, sexually and emotionally abused,” Stubbs said. “The children were physically and emotionally abused and separated from their mother most of the time.”
The woman worked until December as a phlebotomist, a health care technician collecting blood samples from patients, before Stubbs said her work received a text message that she quit.
Although handcuffed during vehicle trips, the mother found a pen and pad of sticky notes in the car and was able, when Toseland wasn't looking, “to write notes, little by little, and hide them,” Stubbs said in a statement. On Tuesday, her daughter was able to deliver about nine little notes to her teacher.
Police said the notes said the woman was being held against her will, "did not know the whereabouts of her toddler and ... believed the child was possibly deceased.”
Police said in a statement the woman told detectives she had been abused by Toseland and was not allowed to leave the house alone or enter the garage.
Spencer said detectives obtained a search warrant before finding the boy’s frozen body. Property records show Toseland owns the two-story, three-bedroom stucco house.
Clark County School District police Lt. Bryan Zink declined to specify the boy’s sister’s grade level or identify the elementary school where he said the teacher gave the note to administrators who notified police.
Toseland made an initial court appearance Wednesday on two felony kidnapping charges before a Las Vegas judge who ordered him to remain jailed pending an appearance Thursday on an open murder charge. It was not immediately clear if Toseland hired a lawyer to represent him.
An attorney who represented Toseland when he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor domestic battery in 2019 in Las Vegas did not immediately respond Wednesday to messages from AP.
Spencer said police were still gathering evidence in the case. He said the boy’s body was intact but bore visible injuries that led investigators to believe he was physically abused. Spencer declined to describe the injuries.
Stubbs said the boy’s sister described severe bruises, and Spencer said the mother told police that Toseland “was disciplining the boy extensively.”
A cause of death will be determined by the Clark County coroner.
Spencer said he didn’t immediately know if Toseland was employed.
Associated Press writer Paul Davenport in Phoenix contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show the three moved into Toseland’s house in March 2021.