Juliani Cardenas Missing: Kidnapped Calif. 4-Year-Old's Body Pulled from Canal

Juliani Cardenas (left) and Jose Esteban Rodriguez. (CBS)
Juliani Cardenas Missing: Child's Body Pulled From Canal is Kidnapped California 4-Year-Old
Juliani Cardenas (left) and Jose Esteban Rodriguez. (CBS)

(CBS/KPIX/KOVR) The Merced County Sheriff's Dept. has confirmed that the child's body which was pulled from a canal in Central California early Tuesday is that of 4-year-old Juliani Cardenas, who police say was snatched from his grandmother's arms by his mother's ex-boyfriend two weeks ago.

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A water authority worker found the body in the Delta-Mendota Canal, 30 miles downstream from where the car belonging to the kidnapping suspect, 27-year-old Jose Rodriguez, was found submerged last week in Stanislaus County, reports CBS affiliate KOVR.

No bodies were in the car when it was pulled from the bottom of the canal.

The body matched the physical description and clothing worn by the young victim. Officials previously said they planned on confirming the identity of the body with DNA testing.

"From the very beginning, we wanted to find little Juliani alive. That was our goal," Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said. But as the days progressed, "we just knew that wouldn't happen."

The case is now being handled by sheriffs as a homicide investigation, but law enforcement officials believe Rodriguez's body is also in the canal, reports KOVR.

Rodriguez has an extensive criminal history, including a 1999 involuntary manslaughter conviction. He also has been arrested on suspicion of assault and battery and unlawful sexual intercourse.

Police say Rodriguez had recently broken up with Juliani's mother when he pulled into the driveway of a Patterson home around 4:12 p.m. Tuesday Jan. 18 and abducted the boy while he was with his grandmother in the garage.

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