SAN ANTONIO — The father of a San Antonio 4-year-old who starved to death last summer has been arrested after cellphone video obtained by police showed the heart-wrenching events leading to the boy’s death.
The videos, which were pulled from an unidentified family member’s cellphone, show Benjamin Kain Cervera begging for food and water on multiple occasions, according to court documents. An arrest affidavit obtained by KSAT in San Antonio states that one video shows the boy being forced to drink hand sanitizer.
Brandon Lee Cervera, 28, of San Antonio, was arrested Thursday in connection with Benjamin’s death, court records show. Cervera is charged with felony injury to a child with the intent to cause serious bodily injury.
Lala Flores, who identifies herself as Benjamin’s mother, wrote on Facebook earlier this month that justice would be served for her “angelito,” or little angel.
“I’ll never understand why this happened in the hands of your so-called loved ones,” Flores wrote. “You’ll always be in my heart and run crazy in my mind. Mommy will always love you and your big brother.”
Editor’s note: The following story contains graphic details of a child’s death.
Multiple Facebook profiles in Cervera’s name paint him as a doting father of two boys. According to court records, however, Benjamin died Aug. 17, 2021, after being brought, unresponsive, to the emergency room of Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.
The boy had bruises across his body in varying stages of healing, New 4 in San Antonio reported. He was undernourished and underweight for his age.
He was also wearing nothing but a disposable diaper, which doctors and nurses found odd for a child just weeks from his fifth birthday.
A nurse called the police, but Benjamin died before the officers arrived.
Cervera told investigators that the bruises on his son’s body were self-inflicted, according to News 4. Cellphone footage from the device of a relative living with the family showed Benjamin “hitting himself on the head with his hands and asking for bread,” police reports state.
An autopsy conducted at the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office indicated that the physical injures seen on Benjamin’s body were not the cause of his death, however.
The medical examiner ruled that Benjamin starved to death.
Detectives armed with a search warrant went to Cervera’s apartment, where they found locks on the refrigerator, on the pantry door and on the kitchen cabinets, the affidavit alleges. A lock on the outside of Benjamin’s bedroom door appeared to be in place to lock the child inside.
The only item in the bedroom was a urine-stained mattress on the floor, KSAT reported.
Authorities also did another search of the relative’s cellphone and found shocking photos and videos. According to News 4, the device held an image of Benjamin with both of his eyes bruised and swollen.
Video showed the boy “shaking uncontrollably, crying and begging for bread and water,” the court records allege.
Cervera and the owner of the cellphone refused.
The police reports state that another video showed Benjamin being forced to eat breadcrumbs off the bathroom floor — without using his hands. In a third video, he is forced to drink hand sanitizer.
The boy can be seen “begging for water while crying and waving his hand in front of his mouth, saying it was burning,” News 4 reported.
Images found on the cellphone depicted the deterioration of Benjamin’s health over the weeks before he died, authorities said. The owner of the cellphone had not been charged with a crime as of Friday morning.
Cervera is being held in the Bexar County Jail on bail of $500,000.
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