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‘It was very clear there was something wrong’: Ex-hotel employee reported child abuse where 11-year-old boy died

An 11-year-old died after he was found unresponsive at a Scottsdale hotel. A former hotel employee says they suspected abuse had been happening in the boy's room.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Banging, crying, and children whimpering are things one hotel resident had heard in the past coming from a hotel room where an 11-year-old boy was found unresponsive on Sunday in Scottsdale.

The child’s grandmother, 51-year-old Stephanie Marie Davis, and her husband, 33-year-old Thomas James Desharnais have been arrested and booked on first-degree homicide and child abuse charges, officials said.

“I would hear banging, like abuse, like someone being thrown against the wall, I would hear whimpering in the bathtub” said a woman who is staying at the Extended Stay America hotel near Scottsdale and Osborn Roads where the homicide occurred. She asked to remain anonymous. 

Scottsdale police said one of the suspects called 911 and reported a child was not breathing. When officers arrived, life-saving measures were attempted by police and first responders, but the child later died at the hospital.

The child had significant injuries, investigators said.

Davis is the victim’s biological grandmother and was caring for another child at the time of the 11-year-old's death, police said.

“They did not behave like little children should be behaving,” said Courtney Lage, an ex-hotel employee. “They were never out playing ball, they were never running around, they were always very controlled, in the room, it was sad.”

Lage said she started working at the hotel's front desk in 2020 after she lost a previous job during the pandemic. After meeting the family and seeing red flags, she said she called the Arizona Department of Child Safety twice.

“When the children were in here, I never see their eyes, they were always covered, they had baseball hats and [the grandmother] would never allow them to really talk directly to us,” Lage said.

During her year of unemployment, Lage claims she saw Desharnais and the children standing on the side of the road with "We’ll work for food" signs and said the grandmother told them they were being homeschooled.

“It was very clear there was something wrong, they were visibly shaking, she would not let them reply to any questions, she was always answering for them, that’s why I called [DCS],” Lage said.

State authorities have taken custody of the other child who was under Davis' care.

Davis is being held on a $3.5 million cash bond and Desharnais on a $1.5 million cash bond.

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