A Pennsylvania couple was arrested Thursday evening on suspicion of torturing and ultimately killing their five-year-old son.
Westmoreland County District Attorney Nicole Ziccarelli told reporters Friday that Lauren and Jacob Maloberti of Delmont have been charged in the killing of their adopted 5-year-old son Landon, whose body doctors indicated showed signs of nightmarish abuse.
Authorities indicated that Landon — a fan of country music, singing, and playing with monster trucks — was brought to UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh in an unconscious state on Jan. 30.
He died tragically Feb. 7 after succumbing to three separate brain bleeds and "significant, severe, life-threatening injuries consistent with child abuse," reported Trib Live.
Police began investigating child abuse allegations the day of Landon's hospital admission after a nurse at Allegheny Health Network's Hempfield facility first raised the possibility with county emergency officials.
Lauren Maloberti, 34, reportedly raised eyebrows with the inconsistent explanations she gave medical staff concerning the boy's injuries. She allegedly blamed accidental falls, COVID-19 after-effects, and Landon for having thrown "himself around because of his behavioral issues," said court documents.
Contrary to the adoptive mother's suggestions, Dr. Michelle Clayton, chief of Children’s Child Advocacy Center, indicated upon reviewing Landon's medical records that his brain had been "obliterated" and that the extensive damages his body and extremities had sustained were not self-inflicted.
Clayton further suggested to police that Landon's physical condition was "diagnostic of torture."
"Landon had blunt force trauma to his head and neck, blunt force trauma to his torso, and blunt force trauma to his extremities," said Ziccarelli, adding that these injuries coupled with his undernourishment had rendered him unable to stand, eat, or drink.
The criminal complaint obtained by WPXI-TV indicated the couple waited a day before taking the brutalized child to the hospital and even then allegedly showed no urgency.
Police reportedly learned after interviewing Landon's five other siblings that the 5-year-old had been the lone target of his mother's violence because "he does not learn his lesson."
The criminal complaint reportedly stated that Lauren Maloberti would get "more angry" with Landon while she hit him. As she allegedly let loose, she would send the other children upstairs. While upstairs, the kids would allegedly hear Landon cry.
The complaint further indicates that texts between the adoptive parents between April 2022 and the time of his death were "full of disdain" for the child.
The boy's maternal grandmother, Kathie Jo Sheffler, told police she hadn't observed any signs of abuse during her biweekly visits until April 2022, at which point she was barred barred from seeing Landon, whom Lauren Maloberti indicated "was bad."
Lauren Maloberti's former co-workers also said she "hated" her son, according to the complaint.
CBS News reported the adoptive mother is alleged to have said she was "going to kill him" in one text message.
Lauren and her husband Jacob Maloberti, a 33-year-old corrections officer at Fayette State Correctional Center, have been charged with criminal homicide, child endangerment, aggravated assault of a child, and criminal conspiracy. Lauren has also been charged with first-degree murder.
Delmont police Chief T.J. Klobucar said, "In the 25 years I have been working for the Delmont Police Department, we have never faced an incident like this."
"Tragically, Landon suffered abuse and trauma over the span of his short life," said Ziccarelli. "We intend to prosecute this case with the dignity and honor Landon deserves."
Both of the accused are presently in the Westmoreland County Prison and have been denied bail.
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