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Kidnap Case Turns To Homicide After Child’s Body Found In Canal

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Juliani Cardenas (left) and Jose Esteban Rodriguez

Juliani Cardenas (left) and Jose Esteban Rodriguez

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MERCED COUNTY (CBS13/AP) – The Stanislaus County Sheriff is offering his deepest condolences to the family of a 4-year-old boy who was kidnapped two weeks ago in Patterson after the body of a young boy was found in a canal early this morning.

The body, believed to be that of 4-year-old Juliani Cardenas, was found in the Delta-Mendota Canal near the town of Gustine. Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson says DNA will be used to make a positive identification, but the appearance and clothing matches that of Juliani.

›› Leave your condolences for the family of Juliani Cardenas

From the very beginning, we wanted to find little Juliani alive. That was our goal,” Christianson said. But as the days progressed, “we just knew that wouldn’t happen.”

RAW: Stanislaus Co. Press Conference On Body Found In Canal

A water authority worker found the body at about 7:30 this morning in the canal near the National Cemetery on McCabe Road in Merced County near Santa Nella.

The body was found about 30 miles downstream from where the empty car belonging to kidnapping suspect, 27-year-old Jose Rodriguez, was found in the same canal last week in Stanislaus County.

The sheriff says the kidnapping case is now being handled as a homicide case. A homicide arrest warrant has been issued for Rodriguez, although law enforcement officials believe his body is also in the canal.

Juliani’s Mother Reacts To Child’s Body Found In Canal

Juliani’s mother, Tabitha Cardenas, was notified right away when the body was found. She reacted to the news by writing the following post on her Facebook page:

“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….='(“

Rodriguez is accused of snatching Juliani from the arms of the boy’s grandmother. Juliani’s mother, Tabitha, reportedly ended her relationship with Rodriguez several months ago, and he is the father of her unborn child.

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