An investigation into the death of a 17-month-old in Holmes Beach has led to the arrest of the mother’s live-in boyfriend.
David Vickers, 31, of Holmes Beach and formerly of Apollo Beach, was arrested Oct. 11 by Holmes Beach Police Detective Sgt. Brian Hall on charges of second-degree murder and aggravated child abuse in connection with the death of infant Luca Sholey.
Luca was declared dead Aug. 23 from injuries sustained two days earlier, according to the HBPD.
Luca had been in Vickers’ care Aug. 21 at the home he shared with Luca’s mother on Peacock Lane when he said he found the child limp and not breathing. At about 9:40 p.m., Vickers called 911. He told police he’d placed Luca in his playpen an hour earlier.
At 9:42 p.m., HBPD and EMS responded to the home in the 200 block of Peacock Lane.
EMS performed CPR, transported Luca to Blake Medical Center in Bradenton and later airlifted him to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.
Mother Melissa Wolfe and a sibling of Luca lived with Vickers in the Peacock Lane apartment where Vickers took care of the children while Wolfe worked two jobs, according to Hall.
Wofle’s Facebook page states she works two restaurant-service jobs, one in Bradenton at Joey D’s and as a bartender at American Legion Post 30 in Sarasota.
A celebration of life for Luca was held Sept. 5 at the American Legion.
The father of Wolfe’s two children lives in Pasco County, Hall said.
HBPD, Manatee County Sheriff’s Crimes Against Children unit and state Child Protective Services opened an investigation into the child’s death after doctors advised HBPD that Luca’s injuries were consistent with abuse.
“The investigation revealed that Luca had been physically abused while in the care of Vickers on several occasions,” according to the HBPD report.
Hall said past trauma to Luca’s face and eye were misdiagnosed as thrush and pink eye when he was taken to a walk-in clinic.
Hall said it was uncertain how long Luca had been abused, but that it may have gone on as long as Vickers and Wolfe had lived together, since May or June.
Whether Wolfe suspected the abuse is unknown.
“I don’t know if she’d been in denial,” Hall said about the mother’s knowledge.
“This is one of the most disturbing cases I’ve had in my 17 years. That’s for sure,” he added.
An autopsy Aug. 28 confirmed the cause of death was a swollen brain and also indicated broken ribs in various stages of healing, the police report stated.
Vickers was arrested on the abuse and murder charges while in custody at the Manatee County jail, where he was being held since an Aug. 24 arrest on a revoked driver’s license.
HBPD also charged Vickers several days later for stealing Wolfe’s laptop and stereo.
The 12th Circuit State Attorney formerly charged Vickers Sept. 15 with grand theft and two counts of dealing in stolen property and two counts of defrauding a pawn broker.
In a jail interview Oct. 11 with Vickers, police asked him about evidence on his cellphone — three videos taken Aug. 18. The videos allegedly show Luca lying on his back on a mattress trying to breathe, experiencing respiratory distress, .
Hall said Luca died from suffocation and a lack of oxygen to the brain. Tests to determine the manner of death are pending.
If convicted, Vickers faces up to life in prison, a life probation and a $10,000 fine for the second-degree murder charge. The charge is a first-degree felony.
The aggravated child abuse charge, a second-degree felony, carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, 15 years probation and a $10,000 fine.
Vickers remains in custody without bond on the murder charge. A $100,000 bond was set for the abuse charge, according to the MCSO jail website.
His court arraignment on both charges is set for 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 17, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.