Palm Springs officers were tasked with investigating a bizarre case of child abuse after a 12-year-old victim came forward last October. The victim alleged he had been handcuffed to an animal crate for as many as 12 hours without access to food, water or a restroom. His offense? Taking a sip of coffee creamer from the refrigerator.
When the investigation began, the victim’s mother, Casey Dersa, was dismissive and “spoke poorly of the child.” The arrest report cited by the Palm Beach Post claimed, “She [Dersa] stated that the child is sick and delusional and his behavior sucks.”
While searching the residence, investigators found the animal crate as well as a set of handcuffs which corroborated the victim’s claims. According to Dersa and her husband, Robert Dersa II, the animal crate was for transporting two pet iguanas. When questioned further on the iguanas, Robert Dersa II was unable to produce photos of the animals. Authorities also pressed the couple on the handcuffs, which they described to investigators as something they used for “role play.”
After first speaking with the victim last October, investigators noted that the child’s story had never changed and that the child had been showing signs of physical and psychological trauma. Officers indicated that during their interview the child had marks consistent with being punched and marks on his wrists consistent with handcuff marks.
This wasn’t the first time Robert and Casey Dersa had been accused of abusing the child. Police were called to investigate an incident in 2012 when the child had been cut as a result of being hit with a laundry basket. The Dersas claimed it was the result of roughhousing.
In 2013, investigators questioned the Dersas about a bruise on the child’s arm which was allegedly from being hit with a machete after refusing to do his homework.
Neither case resulted in formal charges.
Robert Dersa II was arrested in January 2018. He has since been released on a $53,000 bond. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated battery and child abuse. Casey Dersa was also arrested and is currently facing the same charges as her husband and co-defendant.
As for the victim, he is currently residing in foster care. WPTV reports that investigators believe that the incident reported to them in October was not an isolated incident and believe his caregivers routinely handcuffed him to the cage as an unusual form of punishment.