HOUSTON (AP) — A 5-year-old Houston boy likely died weeks before he was reported missing and his body was hidden in a storage unit before authorities discovered it more than 100 miles away in an East Texas motel room, according to court documents.
Houston police have charged Theresa Raye Balboa, 29, with tampering with evidence, a human corpse, in the death of Samuel Olson. Balboa was the girlfriend of Samuel’s father.
Authorities believe a body found Tuesday inside a plastic tote in a motel in Jasper, about 135 miles (215 kilometers) northeast of Houston, is that of the missing boy, according to an arrest affidavit. The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston has the body but has not made an official identification or determined a cause of death.
Family members have said Samuel would have turned 6 over the weekend.
Balboa was being held in the Harris County Jail Friday on a $500,000 bond. Court records do not list an attorney who can speak on her behalf.
Balboa reported Samuel missing May 27. He had been living with her since April 30, which was the last day he was seen at his school. Authorities have not said why Samuel was staying with Balboa. Samuel’s father, Dalton Olson, lived at a different address.
Court records show Balboa was charged with assault in November for allegedly choking Dalton Olson. Conditions of her bond in that case included that she have no contact with Olson or any member of his family.
Balboa told authorities that Samuel’s mother and a man who presented himself as a police officer had taken him. Police investigators later found surveillance footage that showed the boy’s mother could not have taken him.
Earlier this week, Balboa participated in a search for Samuel and told Houston TV station KTRK, “I can’t say where he could be, where he might be.”
Balboa’s roommate told investigators that Balboa called him May 10 and said the boy was dead, according to the arrest affidavit.
The roommate went to their apartment in the Houston suburb of Webster after work and found the boy “unresponsive on a bed” and saw bruising on his body, according to the affidavit.
The roommate “stated that he and (Balboa) placed the (boy’s) corpse in a bathtub, where he remained for two days,” according to the affidavit.
The roommate told investigators that he and Balboa wrapped Samuel’s body in a plastic sheet and placed it in a plastic tote the roommate bought at Walmart on May 13. The two then drove the plastic tote with the body to a local storage unit and left it there, according to the affidavit.
On June 1, Jasper police got a tip that Balboa had the boy in a motel room. In the room, police detected an odor of “possible decomposing human remains” and found Balboa and the plastic tote.
Police “observed what appeared to be a child’s body wrapped in a black plastic bag laying inside the tote,” according to the affidavit. “The child’s body appeared to be wrapped with plastic bags and secured with duct tape.”
Police later interviewed a friend of Balboa’s, who told investigators he helped her get the plastic tote from the storage unit and drove them to Jasper on June 1. Investigators learned that it was Balboa’s friend who had called Jasper police with the tip about the boy.
Samuel’s parents had been involved in a bitter custody battle after filing for divorce in January 2020. His mother, Sarah Olson, had primary custody but she had not seen him since summer 2020, her lawyer, Marco Gonzalez, told reporters this week. Gonzalez accused Dalton Olson of keeping Samuel away from his mother and avoiding being served court paperwork that would have ordered him to return the boy to her.
Gonzalez said Samuel’s mother also blames Dalton Olson for their son’s death and believes he should be charged. Houston police say Olson is not a person of interest but that more charges could be filed.
“Her utmost priority is that justice is done for her baby Samuel,” Gonzalez said. “She’s completely heartbroken.”