A Florida man allegedly shot a sleeping 2-year-old girl with an airsoft gun, burned her with a lighter, and used an electric dog collar to shock her while she slept in what law enforcement officials described as the systematic torture of the young child.
In video, the 37-year-old suspect is at times seen wearing a werewolf mask to torment the sleeping girl, Sheriff David Morgan said at a press conference Wednesday.
"It's the stuff that nightmares are made of, and no child should be subjected to this," Morgan told reporters.
Andrew Bennett Ross Celaius, who was dating the child's mother, is facing charges of child abuse, aggravated child abuse, and tampering with evidence, Morgan said.
Investigators said they have recovered video of the alleged abuse going back at least two months so far, but they are still reviewing multiple videos the suspect kept in order to determine how far back the abuse took place.
Authorities began investigating when the girl's mother took the child to a local hospital to be treated for what she thought was ringworm.
When hospital staff looked at the child, Morgan said, they quickly determined that the marks on the girl were not traces of ringworm but rather were burn marks from abuse.
When deputies searched the victim's home, Chief Deputy Chip Simmons said, they found multiple surveillance cameras that captured the alleged abuse, much of it occurring while the girl was asleep in a bassinet.
"There are videos of the child sound asleep and then getting a full bottle thrown on this child, just to wake it up," Simmons said.
In another, Celaius can be seen shooting an airsoft gun at the girl.
"One of the more disturbing videos shows the child actually wearing a dog collar, and you can hear the sound of the dog collar being activated," Simmons said.
Other videos recovered from the home, collected as part of seven search warrants in the investigation, show Celaius holding a lit lighter and approaching the child before burning her with it.
"I've been in law enforcement for over 30 years, and when I looked at the evidence that we saw here, me and a number of my staff were speechless," Simmons said.
Authorities allege that after Celaius was arrested, he contacted another man, Eric Furnans, from jail and asked him to try to destroy some of the video evidence that has become central to the investigation.
Furnans was arrested on suspicion of destroying evidence.
The girl's mother was initially arrested on suspicion of neglect, authorities said, but appeared to have been unaware of the ongoing abuse of her daughter.
"When she was allowed to view some of the material," Morgan said, "her reaction was more than appropriate."
She is currently cooperating with investigators.
Authorities said they are not sure exactly what Celaius did with the videos of the incidents but are continuing to review several of them.
"When you look at this, it hits you in the heart," Simmons said. "You wonder, how can someone be so mean?"