LEAGUE CITY, Texas – Katrina DeBoard can only cling to memories.
"He was always laughing, always playing," she said.
She last saw her 2-year-old son Dominic back on May 9, 2013 in North Carolina. She strapped him into his car seat and dropped him off with dad. It was supposed to be just a week.
"I kissed him and told him I loved him," said DeBoard. "That I'd see him later."
But later turned into more than a year. The next time she saw her child was June 2014, just a few days ago, in a Houston hospital.
DeBoard drove in Thursday from Oklahoma City, after a League City detective called to tell her that they had found her son in a garage, and that he was clinging to life. By the time she got to Texas Children's Hospital, it was too late. Her son had already died.
"He was cold, ice cold and white," said DeBoard. "There was no muscle mass to my son. His cheeks were always puffy and rosy. But he didn't have cheeks. The child I saw in the hospital bed was not my son."
DeBoard said her ex-boyfriend Derek Wells hit the road and ran away with her son in May of 2013.
For months, she says she searched and wondered where he had taken her boy. It turned Wells and the toddler were living in League City on the 2100 block of Redwood Drive in an unfurnished garage.
Police said it was clear Dominic was being abused by his own father.
"I think he's a monster," said DeBoard.
Last Tuesday, League City Police arrested Wells at the home and have now charged him with injury to a child. But because Dominic died, he could soon be facing murder charges.
"This was my son and I honestly hope that someone puts him through what he put my son through," said DeBoard. "He doesn't deserve to be free, and I hope the guilt eats him alive."
But that guilt is also weighing heavy on DeBoard.
"If I would have said no he can't go, he'd still be alive," said DeBoard.
She tells KHOU 11 News that she in part blames herself for Dominic's death. She wonders what, if anything she could have done differently to save her son.
DeBoard says Dominic will be cremated, and she will bring her son's remains back home to Oklahoma City.