Parents used restraints on child NC: Warrants

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SURRY COUNTY, NC (WGHP) – Warrants paint a clearer picture of the events leading up to death of an infant in the county of Surrey.

Four-year-old Skyler Wilson died at Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem on Jan. 9, three days after he was admitted. His foster parents, Joseph and Jodi Wilson, were arrested on Friday, January 13. Warrants show doctors said Skyler died of hypoxic brain injury.

January 5

Speaking to the doctor, Joseph Wilson said his wife texted him around 5:30 p.m. that “something happened” with Skyler’s swaddle and that something was wrong with his arms. Wilson refers to “swaddle” as a parenting technique he learned from a warrant officer named “Nancy Thomas.”

He told the doctor that they put Skyler to sleep around 6:45 PM in the “van” that was Skyler’s bed. They said a short time later they heard him “move, move” and tried to move him. Skyler fell, and Joseph Wilson placed Skyler on the couch, where he was “stiff and semi-responsive.”

Warrant officers say they tried to give the boy water, but he took several sips before refusing.

“Joseph and Jodi attempted to pour water into Skyler’s mouth,” the documents state.

Joseph Wilson then called 911 and reported that the four-year-old was having a seizure. The call came into Surry County Communications around 8:19 p.m., and a woman can be heard saying, “It’s my fault,” in the background, according to the warrant.

Surry County EMS found Skyler Wilson unresponsive and not breathing on his own and was taken to the hospital.

January 6

The day after Skyler was taken to the hospital, the Surry County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by the Department of Human Services.

A detective with the sheriff’s office spoke with a detective who explained that Skyler had a hypoxic brain injury, which occurs when there is a restriction that prevents oxygen from getting to the brain.

A doctor who had previously spoken to Joseph Wilson told the detective that Skyler’s brain injuries were consistent with “excessive restraints” used during the “wrapping” technique.

That day, they executed a search warrant at a home on Rosecrest Drive in Mount Airy. While inside the home, they observed a “strap/strap for wrist and ankle support,” but these items were not confiscated. Investigators found the cameras in a bag in the basement of the home, and the cameras were photographed but not seized during the Jan. 6 search.

January 8

An SBI agent and a detective from the Surry County Sheriff’s Office interviewed Joseph Wilson, who told them that wrist and ankle straps were used to “hold” Skyler down during the “wrapping” process.

Wilson also said that he believed that during or after the “incident” with Skyler, he believed that Jodi removed the cameras and that they had SD cards, but officials did not find the SD cards when they checked.

January 9

Two detectives searched the home on Rosecrest Drive a second time, specifically looking for the SD cards in the cameras. They list the following items taken from the home:

  • Three white CCTV cameras
  • Mueller sports capes
  • Handwritten documents
  • USB storage devices
  • Books
  • SD card from Wii
  • Notebooks and binders
  • Cameras with SD cards
  • 3 tablets from the game room
  • Dell Optiplex 7020 tower with power cord
  • Hitachi laptop
Jodi and Joseph Wilson (Surry County Sheriff’s Office)

January 13

Joseph and Jody Wilson have been charged with murdering Skyler Wilson and are being held without bond. Three of their biological children and one adopted child were taken into the care of social services.

The SBI is assisting the Sheriff’s Office with the ongoing investigation.

Neighbors, family react

Skyler’s former foster mother described him as a social butterfly with a big heart.

“He was so tiny and small, but he had a heart three times his size,” she said.

“I want to love unconditionally and remember his smile and the little things,” she said.

Community members were shocked by the news, and neighbors expressed sadness that they no longer hear children playing in the yard. Local business owners said Wilson’s business, Affordable Wellness, was closed before his arrest and said they didn’t even know the Wilsons had adopted children before the news broke.

“Swaddle”

Swaddling is a technique used to soothe and help babies sleep, with a blanket tightly wrapped around the child’s body. This has been associated with an increased chance of death from SIDS, and is not recommended for an infant who is old enough to roll over on their own.

The “wrapping” technique mentioned in the warrant related to Nancy Thomas does not provide much information.

Nancy Thomas

Nancy Thomas describes herself as “A professional therapeutic parent“on her website.

“Nancy Thomas is not a doctor, a psychiatrist or a therapist. She is a wonderful mom who, through years of searching, learning and experience, has found solutions to raising difficult children.”

When reached for comment on Skyler Wilson’s death, she responded: “I am shocked and saddened to hear the sad news of this little one’s passing. Since I don’t know anything about the incident, I can’t comment. I am ready to help law enforcement agencies if they have questions.”

Her “therapy” was highlighted in the HBO documentary “Child of Rage” following her experience with her daughter Beth Thomas.

Thomas advocates “attachment therapy” as a treatment for “reactive attachment disorder.”

The The Mayo Clinic describes reactive attachment disorder as “a rare but serious condition in which an infant or young child fails to form a healthy attachment to parents or caregivers. Reactive attachment disorder can develop when a child’s basic needs for comfort, affection, and nurturing are not met and a loving, caring, and stable attachment to others is not established.’

This rare disease primarily affects infants and toddlers, who exhibit symptoms such as lethargy, lack of comfort seeking, or inexplicable withdrawal.

On her website, Nancy Thomas describes a child experiencing RAD this way: “Everyone becomes an enemy. They learn to manipulate, use and abuse people to get what they want. The real child may never be seen by anyone but the mother figure on whom they vent their deep-seated rage.”

Attachment-based therapy is described in Psychology Today as “examines the relationship between an infant’s early attachment experiences with primary caregivers, usually parents, and the infant’s ability to develop normally and ultimately form healthy emotional and physical relationships in adulthood.”

PsychologyToday also notes, “Attachment-based therapy as described here should not be confused with unconventional, unproven, and potentially harmful treatments called ‘attachment therapy,’ which include physical manipulation, restraint, deprivation, boot camp-like activities , or physical discomfort of any kind. These so-called “attachment therapies” were developed in the 1970s as interventions for children with behavioral problems, especially autism; they have since been investigated and rejected by mainstream psychology and medicine.’

This “attachment therapy,” advocated by Nancy Thomas, includes “retention therapy,” in which one person, or sometimes more than one person, restrains a child’s misbehavior.

Nancy Thomas’ parenting advice was also at the center of the 2015 case of an Arkansas state representative who adopted and then relinquished sisters with severe behavioral problems.

The Daily Beast writes about it that the treatments popularized by this so-called attachment therapy “revolve around asserting complete control by parents over their children through strict rules on the children’s movements and eating habits. Sometimes children are put on a very limited diet of bland, unappetizing food; appointed hours of pointless, repetitive tasks; forced to sit in one place, facing the wall, for hours on end; and endure ‘retention therapy,’ in which parents or therapists may forcibly restrain children to first induce feelings of anger and powerlessness, then catharsis and acceptance when they finally submit.”

In 2000 Candace Newmaker, 10, has died under the supervision of attachment “therapists” in Colorado. Two unlicensed therapists were found guilty of her death.

“Wrapped in a blanket to represent the womb, the little girl was sat on by four adults until she could no longer breathe,” in a process called “revival,” according to a Guardian article published at the time.

Parents used restraints on child NC: Warrants

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