The 5-year-old was beaten to death earlier this year by his adoptive parents, criminal investigators allege, in what one of Landon’s doctors later told police was “diagnostic of torture.” Investigators say the boy’s brain was “obliterated” and shifted within his skull by repeated beatings, according to criminal complaints filed in a Pennsylvania court Thursday and reviewed by PEOPLE.
The beatings “caused substantial pain at the time they were inflicted,” according to the complaints, which noted that they were so severe that toward the end of his life, Landon could not eat, drink or stand.
Both adoptive parents — Lauren and Jacob Maloberti — are charged with criminal homicide, endangering the welfare of children, two counts of aggravated assault of a child and criminal conspiracy, according to a joint statement by the Westmoreland County District Attorney’s office and the Delmont Police Department. Lauren Maloberti is additionally charged with first-degree murder.
The couple, who has been under investigation for severe child abuse since January, were arrested Thursday, police confirmed.
“In the 25 years I have been working for the Delmont Police Department, we have never faced an incident like this,” Delmont Police Chief T.J. Klobucar said in a statement.
The Malobertis are being held in Westmoreland County Prison, without bail, Melanie Jones, a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office confirmed to PEOPLE. Web dockets do not list lawyers for either of the Malobertis. They have not yet entered pleas.
In a law enforcement interview with one of Landon’s siblings, identified by his initials K.D., the sibling said Landon was made to sleep on the living room floor and monitored by his parents with a camera. Landon was allegedly also the only one of the six children routinely spanked by the parents — with an open hand or wooden spoon — because Landon “‘does not learn his lesson,’” the brother told police, adding that their mother allegedly “gets more angry” as she beats Landon. Sometimes, the parents used a spray bottle to spray liquid on the child, the sibling alleged to authorities.
The couple often “repeatedly” expressed “their disdain towards Landon,” in text messages about the five year old, investigators alleged in the criminal complaints. In one alleged exchange, Lauren Maloberti said she was going to kill her son. In conversations with former co-coworkers, she “used the word ‘hate,’” to describe her feelings toward the 5-year-old, they later alleged to investigators, adding that she complained her adopted son was “hard to love because he was so difficult and he was a constant struggle,” according to the complaints.
Beginning in April 2022,Lauren Maloberti had forbidden Landon’s biological grandmother from seeing Landon because he was misbehaving and jealous that Landon told the grandmother he loved her and did not say the same to her, according to the criminal complaints. Landon had a history of being mistreated by caregivers prior to his adoption, police said, but both police and the district attorney’s office declined to speak to that history. District Attorney Nicole W. Ziccarelli also declined at a Friday press conference recorded by ABC affiliate 4WTAE to answer questions regarding the welfare of Landon’s five siblings, noting she wanted to “respect their privacy.”
Even though Landon was exhibiting signs of illness in late January — losing consciousness and throwing up — Lauren Maloberti allegedly waited an entire day before taking him to the hospital, and the delay was detrimental to his health, according to criminal complaints.
Before heading to the hospital Jan. 30, Landon’s parents washed off the vomit from his unconscious body, according to the criminal complaints. At the hospital that day, at around 6:30 p.m., Lauren Maloberti gave her son’s name as Landon Ellenberger — his name before adoption. In front of hospital staff, she worried aloud that she would be blamed for her son’s injuries and blamed his condition on repeated falling due to COVID.
According to the complaints, investigators “oberved the numerous bruises covering Landon’s body,” including one in the shape of fingers grabbing Landon by the armpit. They also noted “significant, severe bruising” all over his body and a cut by his left eye.
The next day Landon had no brain activity.
Investigators found children’s and adult clothes as well as towels “damp with vomit” in the Maloberti house. Additionally, the camera used to monitor Landon had been ripped from the wall, and investigators allege that Jacob Maloberti, a corrections officer at State Correctional Institution Fayette, removed the camera amidst law enforcement interviews at the hospital, according to the criminal complaints.
Landon succumbed to his injuries in the hospital on Feb. 7 — about a week after his mother brought him there. Autopsy and medical examiner reports cited in the criminal complaints note that Landon died by homicide, caused by blunt force trauma to the head, torso and extremities.
While Landon was in the hospital, the Malobertis created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money after “our precious baby boy went unresponsive,” TribLive reported. The fundraising campaign, which raised about $5,200, has since been taken down.
“The outcome is not looking good … we need to prepare for the most unimaginable outcome … our baby boy’s funeral,” the couple had written on the GoFundMe page. “I don’t have much else to say as my heart is breaking in a million pieces right now.”
The district attorney’s office is investigating the GoFundMe page, Ziccarelli said at Friday’s press conference.
“We are here today pursuing justice for him to give him the dignity and honor that he deserves,” Ziccarelli said, calling Landon’s death a “disturbing” and “tragic case.”