PATTERSON, Calif. – The body of a small child found in a central California canal on Tuesday is believed to be that of a 4-year-old boy who was kidnapped last month, authorities said.
Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said authorities recovered the body at about 7:30 a.m. from the Delta Mendota Canal in Santa Nella, Calif., roughly 30 miles from where Juliani Cardenas was kidnapped from his Patterson home on Jan. 18.
Authorities have not yet positively identified the child's body, but based on preliminary indications, it is believed to be that of Cardenas, Christianson said.
"We recovered the body of small child whose physical description and clothing description matches our kidnapping victim," Christianson told reporters during a news conference Tuesday afternoon. "This is a very difficult time for everybody in the community."
The kidnapping suspect, Jose Rodriguez, is the ex-boyfriend of the child's mother. His 2003 silver Toyota Corolla was pulled from the bottom of the canal on Saturday with no signs of Juliani or Rodriguez.
Christianson said authorities believe Rodriguez's body is also in the canal.
"This is an ongoing homicide investigation," he said.
DNA testing to confirm the child's identity will take up to three weeks, authorities said.
Juliani's mother, Tabitha Cardenas, who has publicly pleaded for her son's safe return, is eight months' pregnant with Rodriguez's daughter. She ended her nearly three-year relationship with him several months ago.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.