LEAGUE CITY — The mother of a 2-year-old who died last week of injuries that police allege were caused by the boy’s father said the father kept her son away from her for a year.
Katarina “Kati” DeBoard said the last time she saw her son Dominic Wells alive was in North Carolina in May 2013. On Thursday, she found out the boy was clinging to life in a Houston hospital.
By the time she made the drive to Texas from her home in Oklahoma, Dominic was dead.
The boy’s father, Derek Wells, 25, is in the Galveston County Jail on a felony charge of injury to a child. Prosecutors may be looking to bump that up to a murder charge, officials confirmed.
Derek Wells called League City police June 24 saying his son was unresponsive. First responders arrived at a house on Redwood Drive to find the boy unconscious.
They also found out that Wells and his son were living in the attached garage of a family’s house.
In a probable cause affidavit, Wells is quoted as telling police he would get frustrated with his son and had been “hitting him harder than he should.”
The woman whose family let Wells and his son live with them claim that the father and son came to Texas because the boy’s mother “walked out on them.”
Message from League City
DeBoard said she was unaware of the situation involving her son until an Oklahoma City police officer came by her house last week and gave her a note to call League City detectives. That’s when she found out Dominic was on life support.
She drove through the night to Houston, only to arrive soon after Dominic had been declared brain dead, DeBoard said.
“The whole thing is way upsetting to me,” DeBoard said. “I know this kind of stuff happens daily, but I didn’t expect it would be my child. This is crushing — that this would happen to my son.
“The only thing that made me believe was seeing him in that (hospital bed).”
On Friday, the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office released Dominic’s body to DeBoard. She said some of his organs were donated, and she is having the body cremated at Crowder Funeral Home in League City before the remains are sent to Oklahoma.
Son taken to Texas
DeBoard, 31, denied she left her son and his father. She insists that while living in North Carolina, she was the primary guardian for Dominic and that Derek Wells would take their son for weekends and, at times, for up to a week.
That was until last May.
DeBoard, who has since gotten married and moved to Oklahoma, said Sylvia Botens, whose family owns the garage that Derek Wells was living in with his son, stopped by on May 9, 2013, and picked up Dominic for a visit with his father.
“After about a week, I called (Botens) and asked when Derek was bringing Dominic back,” DeBoard said. “She said that Derek wanted to keep him another week. I didn’t think there was a real issue with that.”
Soon after, though, Botens and her family moved from North Carolina to Texas. Derek Wells joined them and brought Dominic.
DeBoard said no one told her they were moving. Botens acknowledged on Monday that when DeBoard called or texted her asking about Derek and Dominic, she would tell the boy’s mother she didn’t know where they were.
“I was told (by Derek) to do that,” Botens said. “(Wells) wasn’t always in my home, so I really didn’t know where he was.”
But she did know that Wells and his son were in Texas.
Asked why she wouldn’t at least tell the boy’s mother that fact, Botens said: “I didn’t want to be in the middle. I didn’t want to be in that situation. The kid was like ammunition between them.”
DeBoard acknowledged she and Derek Wells had issues, calling the relationship “mostly bad.” She claimed Derek Wells had “anger issues” that prompted her to get a protective order when the couple lived in Pennsylvania, where Dominic was born.
Still, the two did not have a formal custody agreement. Even with the rocky relationship, DeBoard moved to North Carolina with Derek Wells.
The couple separated a few weeks after moving.
DeBoard said that, because the custody arrangement was not clear, North Carolina officials said there was nothing they could do when she tried to report Dominic as missing.
There are no records of a missing child report on file in the county where DeBoard and Derek Wells lived. The only indication that Dominic was missing come from DeBoard’s Facebook posts.
In a Dec. 18, 2013, entry DeBoard posted a photo of Dominic on her Facebook page.
She wrote: “Please, please, please pass this around and ask your friends to pass it as well. Help me bring my little boy home for Christmas.”
There are several similar entries posted about Dominic being missing. Some included photos or a description of Derek Wells.
Since going public with her side of the story, though, DeBoard said she’s come under attack, mainly through online posts and social media.
“This isn’t about me seeking attention,” she said. “This is the last thing I wanted to deal with.”