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Scottsdale grandmother allegedly beat, starved boy for months before his death

The husband of Stephanie Davis told Scottsdale police she would repeatedly abuse her grandsons before one of them died, public records show.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Editor's Note: Some of the content in this story may be disturbing to some readers.

The grandmother of an 11-year-old boy who died Sunday night is accused of repeatedly beating, starving and verbally abusing her grandchildren, court records show. 

Stephanie Davis, 51, has been taken into police custody on suspicion of playing a role in the death of her grandson. The victim was found unconscious and paramedics reported removing half a liter of water out of the boy's mouth.

Investigators additionally observed injuries on the boy's forehead and genitals, public records show.

Davis told police the boy, Chaskah Davis, had been "hurting himself" all day before she found him unresponsive in the bathtub. But somebody close to Stephanie Davis is telling a different story.  

Her husband, 33-year-old Thomas Desharnais, allegedly told police about a long history of abuse he's witnessed while living with Stephanie Davis and her grandsons in a Scottsdale hotel room. 

According to court records, Desharnais admitted to previously seeing Stephanie Davis strike the 11-year-old over the head with a metal rachet and bending back his fingers with needle-nose pliers.

The husband further told police Stephanie Davis would intentionally starve the boy for days. Desharnais said he believed Stephanie Davis retaliated against her grandsons because she had a grudge against their mother, police said.

The grandmother was given sole custody of the two boys in 2015, court records show. 

The family had prior contacts with police due to reports made about suspected abuse happening within the home. 

Court records show Scottsdale police received a report of suspected child abuse from a local school in 2017 involving an 11-year-old boy. Police later conducted another investigation involving disorderly conduct but Davis refused to let detectives interview the boys, court records show.

The Arizona Department of Child Safety said in March of 2017 the department received reports alleging Chaskah Davis had a bruise behind his ear and a scratch to his face and that Stephanie Davis had hit him causing the injuries. Officials said an official investigation did not find evidence to support the allegation and the case was closed.

On May 15, DCS went back to the home after receiving another report of the boy was being physically abused. The report indicated the boy had deep purple and red bruising under his right eye. DCS said the allegations were unsubstantiated. Community services were provided to the family and the case was closed.

On Aug. 31, 2017, the department received a report alleging physical abuse to a child by Desharnais. The report alleged 11-year-old had discoloration to his forehead due to Desharnais picking up the child and throwing him down. 

Officials said The family moved out of state during the investigation. The alleged concerns were cross-reported to the state’s social service entity. Like the previous two cases, the DCS investigation did not find evidence to support the allegation, and the case was closed.

Stephanie Davis denied abusing the children and claimed the older boy harmed himself.

Scottsdale police reported finding traces of blood throughout the family's hotel room. Investigators allegedly detected old blood stains on mattresses, pillows, and around the bathtub, public records show.

“This appears to of been a very obvious case of horrific terrific abuse,” said Darcy Olsen, CEO of Gen Justice a child safety advocacy group. “It’s hard to believe that anyone would’ve gone into that hotel room with what we know now and thought there was nothing other than something very terrible going on to those two children.”

Olsen is calling for an independent investigation into DCS about what went wrong and how the 11-year-old child could have been saved.

 “We don’t know if it was a shortage of staff? We’re there really no cuts and bruises that were that visible? Why didn’t they interview the children? That’s supposed to be part of the process. What happened?” Olsen questioned.

Olsen suggests the governor could create an oversight agency to investigate cases where children who have previously been reported to be abused and later died, to be independently looked at.

Some 70% of the children in Arizona who die of abuse at the hands of torture are known to authorities, Olsen said.

Ex-hotel employees told 12 News they reported two cases of abuse to DCS in 2020 regarding the family, we are waiting to hear back from the agency on what happened to those reports.

“We’ve got to know what happened to this boy and to his brother so that we can help other children who may right now, be living those very same situations,” said Olsen.

Stephanie Davis and Desharnais have been taken into custody and both are facing child abuse charges. The other grandchild has been taken into state custody.

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

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