The 911 call came in at 3:30 in the morning July 31 from a Davenport, Florida home to the Polk County Sheriff Office’s emergency center: an unresponsive toddler.
First reposnders transported the child to Heart of Florida Hospital. Doctors said the boy had a “brain bleed.” The 2-year-old was pronounced dead a few hours later.
The boy’s mother and her boyfriend are now charged with murder.
Polk County Florida Sheriff Grady Judd said of the details of little Harley Don Hiatt Jr’s death at the hands of Christian Thompson, 26, made possible by the complicity of the boy’s mother, Shannon Short, 26, “If it doesn’t boil your blood and bring tears to your eyes then you’re not even human.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Harley Would Have Turned 3 in October. Now HIs Mother & Her Boyfriend Are Charged in HIs Murder
During an autopsy, Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Nelson found bruises on the child’s face and forehead, “consistent with being struck by a belt.”
“There was a scar below his bottom lip, and scratches on his nose and forehead. His bowel was lacerated, causing an infection called peritonitis, and several areas of hemorrhage in his skull and within his brain. The bowel laceration and cerebral hemorrhage were the result of blunt force trauma,” the ME’s report said.
Nelson said the infection “was consistent with an injury occurring two or three days prior “ to when his mother saw his symptoms on July 29 and knew her child was at the very least seriously injured. The medical examiner said if Harley had treatment on July 30, he “would have survived …”
The little boy’s cause of death was blunt force trauma. The manner was homicide.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office took Short and Thompson into custody on the day of Harley’s death. Thursday PCSO detectives charged Short and her live-in boyfriend Thompson with murder in connection with the death of Short’s baby boy.
Thompson, who Judd said is from Texas, is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter of a child, aggravated child abuse, negligent child abuse with great bodily harm and marijuana possession. If convicted, Thompson could face the death penalty.
His criminal history includes a 2012 arrest in Nacogdoches, TX, for possession of marijuana, and a February 2018 arrest by PCSO for possession of marijuana and paraphernalia, and home solicitation without a permit.
Thompson has previous arrests for marijuana possession arrests in Nacogdoches and Polk County.
Short, who Judd said is from California, is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter of a child, aggravated child abuse, and felony child abuse and failure to report child abuse. Short was also charged with misdemeanors marijuana possession.
Short has been arrested in Texas for criminal trespassing, Kansas for battery on a law enforcement officer, and a Haines City, Florida arrest for grand theft.
They are both being held without bail.
2. Police Say the Toddler Was Tortured & Abused By Thompson & His Mother Was Complicit
Thompson and Short met doing traveling sales of a glass cleaning product, Police said they moved around the country and had Harley with them. In Florida, Judd said, the couple and little Harley lived in an 8-foot camper trailer. Shannon held down two jobs and Christian was the babysitter, the sheriff said. Thompson has a small child who lives with his mother in Texas. And Short has two children that live with her mother in California because the sheriff said, Short was “too immature” to care for her children. And while Judd said that arrangement was likely “difficult,” nonetheless he said, Short “knew about the abuse, allowed it, and continued to leave him in the care of his abuser.”
The evidence is text messages between Short and Thompson. Short would leave her son in Thompson’s care when she went to work shopping or to go smoke weed. She was aware of the beatings her son was getting, Judd said and the affidavit shows, and did nothing until her son lay dying.
Since Harley had “visible bruising on his face, and a rash on his left arm and leg,” when asked Short said those injuries were from July 27 and pointed to Thompson as having inflicted them while she left her baby home alone with her boyfriend while she went to work.
Short told detectives “Harley has suffered multiple injuries during the past two months, while she was at work and being watched by Thompson.”
At one point, Judd said, Harely didn’t open his eyes for two days and the couple believed he was “possessed” based on their Google search history. Turned out Harely had a serious eye infection.
Police have a text where Short told Thompson to “fuck him up,” because he was acting up, Judd said.
3. Details of the Repeated Abuse of the Boy by Thompson Are Disturbing & Hard to Hear
“When you hear what this precious baby boy was put through, it’s sickening,” Judd said.
The couple texted back and forth. Thompson was documenting the abuse but thought he was creating a case that the boy did it to himself,” Judd said.
A police statement reads, “Thompson texted her after the injuries occurred, stating such things as he was disciplining the child by hitting him with a belt. Detectives reviewed the text messages, including responses by Short such as ‘omg what did u do to my baby?’ The various injuries included facial bruising, an injury to the boy’s penis, and a through and through wound on his bottom lip.”
One text in June from Thompson said, “um ya son tryna kill hisself” referring to injuries the child incurred. Thompson explained the injuries as occurring when the child climbed on things and “fell” or pulled things down onto himself, such as a hot plate.
On July 23, Short called 911 and had her son taken to the hospital because he had not opened his eyes for two days. She texted Thompson: via text message,”I think they calling CPS on me I think they bout to try to take Harley.”
4. Short Gave the 2-Year-Old Ibuprofen Instead of Calling for Help, Police Say. She Claims She Was Afraid of Child Protective Services
On July 27, Thompson sent Short a text showing Harley’s face and said he’d “scratched himself.” Police said Short said the scratches looked like welt marks that would happen if he had been hit in the face with a belt. The next two days, Harley was “not acting like himself …(was) clinging to her,” police said. On July 30, she gave her toddler juice and “laid down with him” for a bit until she took a Lyft to go cash a check and again left Harely with Thompson. She went grocery shopping and asked friends about buying pot. She told police when she got home her child was “lying on the floor, with vomit nearby and vomit on the bed.”
Police said, she “put him on the bed then went outside to smoke a cigarette.”
Police said Short was afraid to bring him to a hospital because she feared Florida Department of Children and Families involvement. She gave Harely “some ibuprofen and antibiotics, and left him with Thompson to go purchase and smoke marijuana at a friend’s house.”
Later that night, when she went back home she found her son “moaning as if in pain, holding his stomach, and kicking his legs. He was dry heaving. She attempted to give him a bath but was concerned his face would go underwater, since he kept doubling over in pain. She gave him more ibuprofen and antibiotics, then laid him down in the bedroom.” Police said she went to smoke weed with Thompson.
At 3:30 in the morning, now July 31, “Harley’s eyes rolled back into his head, and he became limp and unresponsive.”
It was then Short called for help. Too late for the boy who would die a few hours later.
5. Folks Were at Once Heartbroken & Horrified. Some Even Asked About a Service for Harley
“Can you let us know when and if there will be a service for this little man? I would love to be there,” one commenter asked on the PCSO Facebook page.
“As a mother who carried a child how could you allow someone to do this to your baby?”
“RIP baby boy.”
Many people commented that they would have loved to have had Harley to care for.
“I can’t have kids an would of taken him or any kid to raise correctly in a heart beat.”
“They could of gave me the baby boy i would of took him in 💔💔💔”
“Let’s show some respect to this child memory and stop uncalled debates HERE.”