Sacto 9-1-1
February 1, 2011
Authorities believe body of missing 4-year-old found in canal

sheriff_1.jpgPhoto gallery: The search for 4-year-old Juliani Cardenas

By Bill Lindelof

The Stanislaus County sheriff left little doubt that the child's body found this morning in the Delta-Mendota Canal is that of kidnapped 4-year-old Juliani Cardenas.

Sheriff Adam Christianson said in a press conference televised live that the physical description and clothing of the child found in the canal Tuesday matched that of Juliani. Deputies said the child's abductor is believed to have driven into the canal Jan. 18.

"At this point we want to offer our deepest condolences to the Cardenas family," said Christianson.

The little boy's body was found this morning near Santa Nella, Merced County, about 25 miles south of Patterson, Stanislaus County, where divers recovered the car of suspected kidnapper Jose Esteban Rodriguez last Friday. No bodies were in the car when it was pulled from the canal last week.

The body of the little boy was spotted by water district employees. Juliani's family was alerted that a body had been found, authorities said.

At about 11:10 this morning, a posting went up on the Facebook page of Juliani's mom, Tabitha Cardenas, that said:

"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....='("

Positive identification would be made through DNA analysis.

Although deputies suspect that Rodriguez also died in the canal, a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

"This investigation continues," said Christianson. "This is a homicide investigation. It is an ongoing investigation."

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079. The Modesto Bee contributed to this report.

For coverage from the Modesto Bee, click here.

View Boy's body discovered in canal in a larger map

Previous Sacramento Bee stories:

Mother of abducted boy relieved no bodies were in canal car - Jan. 29, 2011
'Frustrating' canal search finds more vehicles - Jan. 26, 2011
Car hulks add to mystery - Jan. 24, 2011

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