A 3-year-old New Jersey boy who was reported missing Tuesday was found dead in the woods about half a mile from his home, authorities said.
Andy McNeil, a spokesman with the Camden County prosecutor’s office, said a family member reported Brendan Link Creato missing at 6 a.m. from a small apartment building in Haddon Township. The boy’s body was found at around 9 a.m. by a police dog in Cooper River Park.
Karri Anthony, a friend of the boy’s mother’s family, said Brendan had been staying at his father’s home at the time. His mother lives elsewhere. Anthony told Philly.com that Brendan was an only child.
The mother, Samantha Denoto, released a statement Tuesday evening on her son's death.
"We are heartbroken by the loss of our beautiful boy Brendan Creato," she said. "Along with the Creato family, who also lost a son and grandson, we are grieving and tremendously saddened."
Denoto thanked the people who searched for Brendan and those who gathered at a vigil in his memory.
The road from Brendan's home to the park runs through a suburban neighborhood with big lots and large homes.
The park itself is full of dangers, including stairs leading to a small concrete landing that drops off into the water of a branch of the Cooper River. By midday, the park was no longer considered a crime scene, though the area around the boy's home was still cordoned off.
After Brendan was reported missing, police notified nearby residents using a reverse 911 call that described him as wearing pajamas.
More than 100 people gathered Tuesday for a candlelight vigil near the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Haddon Township, according to Philly.com. Two close friends told the website that a stranger and not a family member committed an atrocity.
“A stranger and an evil person came in and did this,” Bernadette Ferraro, who said her son is Brendan’s godfather, told Philly.com.
The cause of death remains under investigation, and further details have not been disclosed. Authorities are awaiting the results of an autopsy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.