Weeks before telling her boyfriend that his estranged wife took his 5-year-old son, Theresa Balboa allegedly confessed to her roommate that little Samuel Olson was dead—and then put his body in a bathtub for two days, new documents reveal.
Authorities say that on May 10, Balboa called her roommate, Benjamin Rivera, telling him that Dalton Olson’s son had died. Rivera told investigators that he immediately left work and returned home to find the boy laying on the bed, unresponsive and covered in bruises, according to court documents first obtained by ABC13.
Desperate, the duo put Samuel in their apartment’s “bathtub, where he remained for two days” until Rivera was able to buy duct tape and a plastic tote from Walmart, he told authorities. The court documents state that Rivera and Balboa then wrapped the boy’s body in the sheet before placing him inside the tote bag and taking him to a storage unit in Webster, Texas.
The shocking new details about the death of Samuel Olson—who was set to turn 6 on May 29—are the latest twist in a case that has garnered national attention. Police had initially described Olson as being 6 years of age, but clarified in light of the disturbing new details that he was actually only 5 at the time of his death.
While Balboa has only been charged with tampering with evidence, law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case have indicated to The Daily Beast that Balboa may face upgraded charges as soon as Thursday.
Court documents state that after helping with the search for Samuel on Monday—and sharing her anxiety about finding the missing boy with reporters—Balboa called a friend and asked for a ride, telling the man she’d gotten into a fight.
The friend, who was not identified, told authorities he picked Balboa up at a Walmart parking lot, and the pair went to the storage unit, where they retrieved a large, foul-smelling plastic container and put it into her car. The next day, the friend drove her and the container to a local Best Western about two hours away.
Unbeknownst to Balboa, the friend had called the Jasper Police Department to report her—and it wasn’t long before cops showed up at the motel, according to court documents.
Inside her motel room, one officer “detected an odor that through his experience in law enforcement… to be possible decomposing human remains” and found Balboa in the bathroom, court documents state. Officers then found the container, where they discovered what is believed to be the body of the missing 5-year-old, who was wrapped in black plastic bags and secured with duct tape. Balboa was immediately arrested.
“I can barely breathe,” the boy’s father, Dalton Olson, told KPRC 2 on Wednesday, hours after his girlfriend was arrested. “Why? He loved you so much. I do not understand what happened. Why did you, why did you do this?”
Houston Assistant Chief Heather Morris on Wednesday also confirmed that several other people are being questioned in the case, including Dalton Olson.
“It’s been a rollercoaster,” Samuel Veenstra, who is representing Dalton Olson, told the Houston Chronicle on Thursday, adding that his client has denied any wrongdoing and is shocked and “devastated” by his son’s death. “He had no reason to suspect something was off with Theresa, assuming Theresa did this.”
“He’s been nothing but devastated through this whole situation. To put blame on Dalton, as having responsibility for the death of his son, it’s just absurd,” he added.
Court records indicate that Balboa may have not even been allowed to be around the Olsons at the time of the 6-year-old’s disappearance. Last November, Balboa was arrested for choking Dalton Olson and was charged with assault of a family member.
The next day, she was released on a $50,000 bond and a protective order was filed that technically prohibits Balboa from “communicating directly with a member of the family or household or with [Dalton Olson],” court documents state. In May 2010, Balboa was also charged for possession of marijuana and served three days in jail.
When asked about the protective order on Monday, the couple told reporters they had moved past their issues and were focusing their attention on finding the 6-year-old. Standing hand-in-hand with Balboa, Dalton Olson insisted he did not blame his girlfriend for his son’s disappearance.
“I feel like I’m having a bad dream that I can’t wake up from,” he said near a grassy field behind an apartment complex. “We stuck to our routine. I mean. It’s just very overwhelming and it’s hard.”
The Houston Police Department states Olson was reported missing by the boy’s father around 6 p.m. on May 27. But investigators believe the boy had been missing for weeks after finding inconsistencies in statements from Balboa and her boyfriend—and learning he was last seen on April 30 at Holbrook Elementary School.
Morris said Wednesday that when officers responded to Olson’s house last week, Balboa claimed she had turned Samuel over to his mother, Sarah Olson, and a police officer as she was preparing to take the boy to school in the morning.
“I was going to take Sam to school when his mother showed up with a police officer, or what I was under the impression to be a police officer, and they demanded me to release Sam,” Balboa, 29, told reporters on Monday. “They had a full police uniform. They had a gun, handcuffs, everything. I had no choice but to hand him over.”
Police said that after hearing his girlfriend’s tale, Dalton Olson called “Samuel’s mother and she told him that Samuel was not with her.” Investigators also later confirmed that Sarah Olson was at her house the entire day.
Marco Gonzalez, an attorney for Olson’s mother, confirmed his client had not seen her son since January 2020 as she had been “denied access” to him “for many months.” A friend of Olson’s mother told The Daily Beast that Sarah is a “wonderful mother” who is “an emotional wreck right now.”
Another friend added to The Daily Beast that the pair separated in April 2019 and maintained joint custody of Samuel until January 2020, when Dalton filed for another order to become the custodial parent. Days later, Sarah Olson filed for divorce.
Veenstra told the Houston Chronicle that Dalton Olson was under the impression his January 2020 motion had gone through—giving his estranged wife little to no access over their son. In reality, the order was never officially set in place.
“The relationship between Sarah and Sam has been real rocky, to say the least,” Veenstra said. “We’re not trying to throw Sarah under the bus by any stretch. It’s a young couple that had issues. They couldn’t get along.”
That complicated dynamic led Dalton Olson’s family to initially believe Balboa’s tale about Samuel being picked up by his mother without warning. Veenstra said it wasn’t until Monday—when Balboa disappeared in the middle of the search for Samuel—that the young father began to realize something was amiss.
“That’s when the reality of the situation started being processed, ‘Hold on we may have been wrong about her,’” Veenstra said.
Texas EquuSearch founder Tim Miller, who helped search for Olson and was with his father when the body was found, told KHOU-11 that after several interviews investigators realized Balboa’s story was fiction. He said he called out Balboa during one of the several interrogations she faced from police, telling her that “every word you’re saying is a lie.”
“And that’s when things started unraveling, I think,” he said.
On Tuesday, police executed a search warrant in an apartment where Balboa had been staying and also took the car they believe was used to transport the plastic container. Hours later, authorities found Olson and Balboa in the motel room.
According to Sarah Olson’s attorney, the boy’s mother is now just focusing on how “justice can be done for Samuel.”
“Theresa is in custody, but she also strongly believes that the adults, you know, the child's father, should also be in custody, because she feels 100 percent that they both have something to do with this,” Gonzalez said on Wednesday. “So, she’s hoping, you know, praying that he also will be taken into custody.”