1:51 PM PDT, June 11, 2021
The tragic story of little Samuel Olson, whose body was recently found stuffed inside a plastic bin, had its origins in a long, bitter custody dispute between his parents.
The Texas boy was reported missing by his father on May 27, two days before his sixth birthday. Dalton Olson and his girlfriend, Theresa Balboa, told investigators that Balboa had been confronted that morning by Sam’s mother, Sarah Olson, and a uniformed officer, who demanded custody of the child.
Balboa said she had no choice but to hand over the boy. Her story would prove to be false, authorities said. Five days later, on June 1, she was discovered with Samuel’s decomposed body in a Jasper County Best Western motel room by sheriff’s deputies, who had received a tip from Crime Stoppers, authorities said. The location was more than 130 miles from Samuel’s hometown of Houston.
Authorities said she was heading to Louisiana with Samuel’s remains.
She is the only person arrested thus far in Samuel’s death, which has been ruled a homicide caused by blunt trauma to his head, according to autopsy results made public on Tuesday. She is being held in lieu of $600,000 bail at the Houston County Jail, charged with evidence tampering involving a human corpse.
Dalton Olson is still being questioned in the case, according to Houston police, as are two men who allegedly told investigators they helped Balboa move the bin holding Samuel’s body, police said. None of the men have been charged, though prosecutors have said additional charges are pending in the “murder or capital murder” investigation.
Balboa’s roommate told investigators that he arrived home on May 10 and saw Sam’s bruised body lying on a bed, according to court documents. He and Balboa placed the body in their bathtub, where it remained for two days, authorities said. They later wrapped the body in plastic, placed it in a bin and transported it to a storage locker, the roommate told officers, according to court documents filed in Balboa’s criminal case.
There are myriad unanswered questions in the disturbing case — notably why was Sam in Balboa’s care? She had been charged with felony assault in November for allegedly choking Dalton Olson, according to court records, and was under a restraining order to have no contact with him or his family.
She had been released on $15,000 bail in that case and was scheduled to be arraigned on that charge this month, according to court documents.
Sarah Olson has not spoken publicly since news broke that her son had been reported missing. Through her attorney, Marco Gonzalez, she has expressed heartbreak and said she had not seen Samuel for nearly a year.
Gonzalez, who represented her in her legal battle to regain her son, has told reporters that Dalton Olson had eluded court efforts to force him to return Sam to Sarah Olson, who had primary custody of the boy. His father had visitation rights and had failed to return Samuel for more than a year, Gonzalez said.
Court records show that process servers over that period of time had been unable to deliver court filings to Dalton Olson.
“She did try to get police officers involved, but in Texas, the standard answer is ‘You have to take it up with the judge,'” legal advocate Jill Pruitt Allred told Inside Edition Digital. Allred said Sarah Olson reached out for help in locating Sam after media reports surfaced about him being missing.
Allred is a legal and social services advocate for foster children and teen victims of sexual trafficking, and has spoken out on social media about Sarah Olson’s efforts to locate her son
Custody disputes are particularly hard to resolve because enforcing a judicial ruling is sometimes impossible, she said. “It is tough,” Allred said. “Because what is the point of a court order, if only the judge can enforce it?”
The Houston Police Department does not enforce custody orders. “It is a civil matter,” department spokesman Victor Sendies told Inside Edition Digital. “Anything civil, we don’t enforce those. It has to go through the court system.”
Allred said Sarah Olson had tried multiple times to serve the boy’s father with court orders, only to find Dalton Olson had moved. Samuel had been enrolled in multiple school districts as his dad changed locations, Allred said, something the mother’s attorney also told local reporters in recent days.
When officers arrived to question Sarah Olson after Balboa and Dalton Olson she had taken the child, the mom showed them surveillance camera video showing she had never left her house that day, Houston police said.
“Sarah didn’t even know he was gone until they accused her of kidnapping him,” Allred said. “She was desperate.”
Sarah Olson did not respond to a request for comment from Inside Edition Digital. Olson’s mother, who is handling funeral arrangements for her grandson, declined an interview request.
Dalton Olson did not respond to an interview request. His attorney, Samuel Veenstra, did not respond to an email and a phone message left by Inside Edition Digital. Recently, Veenstra told local reporters his client had no part in Samuel’s disappearance and denied any wrongdoing in the case.
Dalton Olson told investigators that Samuel had been in Balboa’s care since April 30, the last day anyone outside of his relatives reported seeing him, police said.
Public defender Robert Scott, appointed to represent Balboa earlier this week, did not respond to a voicemail seeking comment. Gonzalez also did not respond to requests from Inside Edition Digital, though he has told local reporters that his client is too distraught to speak to the media and is focused on finding out what happened to her son.
“I’ve seen all of the pictures and videos” of Samuel, said Allred. “He was just like so many 5-year-olds. He was a happy kid. Goofy, funny. They’re just coming into their own as a person at that age,” she said. “He loved dinosaurs. He loved action figures.”
Sarah Olson has been posting videos and photos of Samuel on social media, in an effort to keep her son’s memory alive, her attorney has said.
The mother did not know her former husband had filed for a restraining order against Balboa or that the girlfriend was caring for Samuel, Allred said.
Allred began searching court documents in the custody case after Sarah Olson first contacted her.
“I only got involved because I thought I could get him returned to his mother and everything would be fine,” Allred said. “It is a crazy case, every single day,” she said. “You’re on a roller coaster of emotions.”
Some of the more confounding documents in the custody case, she said, was a motion from Dalton Olson filed on May 28, one day after he reported Samuel missing.
According to court documents, the father was seeking an emergency declaration granting him sole custody of Sam, and accusing Olson of being an unfit mother.
The filing included sworn affidavits from Dalton Olson and Theresa Balboa, saying Sarah Olson had taken the child on May 27.
“Samuel Olson and I went to the backyard to feed my 2 dogs. While Samuel Olson and I walked back to my car we saw Sarah Olson and a police officer standing in the driveway,” Balboa said.
“Sarah Olson pointed at Samuel Olson and myself saying that’s my son and she took him,” Balboa said in the handwritten statement. “The officer told me I needed to release Samuel Olson to Sarah Olson or I would go to jail because I have no legal rights to Samuel Olson,” she said.
The affidavit went on to describe what Samuel was supposedly wearing, and what Sarah Olson was supposedly wearing.
At that point, Samuel Olson had already been dead for 18 days, Balboa’s roommate would later tell investigators, authorities said.
In his handwritten affidavit, Dalton Olson said, “Theresa Balboa and Samuel Olson were coming out of the backyard and there was Sarah Olson with an officer in the driveway. The officer demanded Theresa to turn Samuel over to him or she would go to jail. Theresa complied with the officer.”