ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. – “It’s the thing nightmares are made of and no child should ever be subjected to this.”
Those were the words of Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan as he described the way 37-year-old Andrew Ross Celaius would allegedly torture his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter after she fell asleep.
Warning: This story contains graphic descriptions of abuse
Morgan said video evidence from surveillance equipment found inside the home, as well as Celaius’ cellphone, shows him burning the girl with a blowtorch, shocking her with a dog collar and throwing a full water bottle at her as she slept.
“We had a number of instances where this individual, the suspect would use an airsoft gun to just shoot a sleeping child, for no other reason but to wake the child up and hurt the child,” Morgan said at a press conference Wednesday.
Morgan said that Celaius also appeared in the video wearing a werewolf mask while tormenting the child.
“The level of terror that this child was put through, our abuser would wear a mask, a werewolf mask and the collar that the chief described is a tasing collar for dogs,” Morgan said. “If you want to think of something you could do to a child to terrorize her, this child lived through that.”
The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation after Celaius’ girlfriend brought her daughter to the hospital for treatment of what she thought was ringworm.
“When she took the child to the ER, the ER physicians who are well versed in spotting child abuse quickly determined that that was not any form of ringworm, it was abuse,” Morgan said. “In this case it was burn marks.”
The girl’s mother is cooperating with investigators and has not been charged.
Authorities arrested Celaius and are now working to determine whether or not there was sexual abuse involved, and if others witnessed the videos.
“It goes far beyond just a child being abused,” Morgan said. “Some of this evidence may have been shared in the cloud and shared with other people.”
Deputies also arrested a suspected accomplice, 36-year-old Eric Furnans, who allegedly destroyed evidence for Celaius while he was behind bars.
WEAR-TV reports that Celaius was rushed to the hospital Wednesday night after he was found hanging in his cell, but is still alive.
He is charged with probation violation, possession of a weapon, marijuana possession, drug equipment, drugs-health-safety, six counts of aggravated child abuse, four counts of child abuse and three counts of possession of a controlled substance.
Records show Celaius was charged in the murder of a young child in 2006 but was found not guilty, WEAR reports.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for over 30 years and when I looked at the evidence that I saw here, me and members of my staff were speechless,” Morgan said. “We are comforted to some degree that this precious child will not be harmed tonight.”