STANISLAUS COUNTY, CA - The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department said Tuesday afternoon the child's body found in the Delta-Mendota Canal near Gustine matches the description of Juliani Cardenas, but will wait for DNA results to make a final identification.
Sheriff Adam Christianson said the body was found around 7:30 Tuesday morning by maintenance crews. While Christianson would not give absolute confirmation that the body is Juliani's, he did acknowledge the loss for Juliani's family.
"At this point we want to offer our deepest condolences to the Cardenas family in this very tragic case," Christianson said.
There has been no formal comment from the Cardenas family regarding the discovery Tuesday. The boy's mother, Tabitha Cardenas posted the following comments on her Facebook page a little before noon:
I have the worst news in the world to tell you all...='( My son's body has been found in the canal no DNA has confirmed it but its his clothes and shoes have and it's a 4 year old boy. So I want everyone to pray that Jose's body is found so we can all know that he's burning in HELL and I don't have to worry about him taking my unborn baby girl....='(
I'm not talking to the press or anyone else I just had to let you all know before the news does... I love you all very much and my son does too. He's my lil angel now and believe me I'm crying as I am writing this to you all......
At Cardenas' Patterson home, an SUV was seen leaving about 1:15 p.m. with a sheriff's unit escort and an ambulance following.
Christianson added the investigation into Juliani's disappearance and the body discovered Tuesday afternoon will go on as a homicide investigation.
"It's an ongoing investigation," Christianson said. "We have issued a warrant for Jose Rodriguez."
It was two weeks ago that 4-year-old Juliani was taken from his grandmother's arms by his mother's ex-boyfriend, Rodriguez. A witness said he saw a car matching the description of the car in the kidnapping drive into the canal a short time later.
Rodriguez' car was pulled from the canal last Friday, but there were no bodies found in the car. Stanislaus County investigators still think Rodriguez is in the canal.
"Everything led us to that canal and we knew it would be a tragic ending," Christianson said. "And it certainly has been."
Gustine is located more than 25 miles south of Patterson.
By Tim Daly, firstname.lastname@example.org