The mother of a 4-year-old boy found dead in Mission Bay Sunday morning remembered her son's contagious smile, spirit and passion for life, recalling a boy who often told her he wanted to build her a house.
"He will live on," Daniesha Hilaire, mother of Wesley, told NBC 7 through tears. "He's not gone. His spirit is still here, oh yes. And that's the only way I'll get through it."
Wesley's body was found off the shore near Mission Bay's east channel late Sunday morning after he went missing Saturday night. Initial reports said Wesley had been lead off by a man by the beach, prompting an Amber Alert across multiple counties, though San Diego Police (SDPD) Officer Cory Mapston said claims of child abduction were unfounded. Police believe he died in an accidental drowning.
A day after his body was discovered, Daniesha told NBC 7 her son was "absolutely everything" to her and said she missed her son, who was wise beyond his years.
"He was amazing, just from his picture you could tell he was amazing," Daniesha said. "He smiled at everything. He always had a smile when he didn't want to do something."
Wesley loved school and could build a 100-piece puzzle quickly, she recalled. He loved his Legos as well, she said, and could build a house.
"He always says, 'Mommy, I'ma build you a house," she said.
More recently, he had started drawing more and more. He would spend time on YouTube, looking up Mario and Luigi and drawing each scene. In his mind, she said, he was an attorney and ran his own law firm.
"If you met Wesley, you wouldn't forget him," she said through tears. "Me and my husband would say, Wesley has been here before because Wesley never had a wrong answer. He was right about everything."
After news that her son had gone missing spread, Daniesha stayed at the scene through the night and into Sunday morning, passing out fliers with her son's information, hoping it would help spread the word and find her son.
As the investigation unfolded throughout the night and into Sunday morning, police told NBC7 they were not ruling out any possibilities, but believed the young boy was either abducted or drowned, though they said they issued an Amber Alert as a precaution in the event he was abducted.
"It was a mistake, with the whole abduction," said Wesley's mother. "We had witnesses saying they seen him abducted, so we went on that, we chased down that trail first."
Daniesha's sister had taken Wesley to the beach with his siblings that day. When they began heading to leave, they stopped by the bathroom, and Wesley went missing. The details of what exactly happened are unclear. Wesley cannot swim, though Daniesha said they were planning on enrolling him in swimming lessons this month.
When she was told her son's body was found, Daniesha collapsed and had to be taken away on a gurney. The boy's grandmother, also at the scene, began yelling and screaming. Many in the area gathered to pray. Her husband, who had recently deployed with the U.S. Navy on USS George Washington, was flown home on Sunday. He landed shortly after they found the boy's body.
"To have him go the way he did, it hurts," Daniesha said Monday. "But I'm sure it's [for] a reason. I might not see it now...but I'll see it."
"He just changed everyone's life," she added. "Friends, family, strangers."
For Daniesha, knowing her son was not abducted provides a small, small sense of relief.
"I'm happy to have him, his body, and to have my baby laid to rest the proper way and not know that some man probably had my baby," she said through tears. "I'm fine with the fact that I know how he went."
The Medical Examiner's office has taken the body to their office in Kearny Mesa, Mapston said, and will continue the investigation.
"When someone drowns or dies outdoors, the Medical Examiner's office takes custody of the body while they conduct an investigation before releasing to the parents," Mapston said.
Daniesha said she has yet to walk into Wesley's room, but said she woke up looking for him, expecting to find him getting ready for school.
"Keep praying," said Wesley's father, crying. "Pray for our strength and health. It's going to be hard from this day on. Pray for his big brothers, they're going to miss him."
Wesley leaves behind twin 6-year-old brothers.
A GoFundMe has been set up in the family's name, Daniesha said. The money will go to help the family pay for their living expenses during this difficult time as Daniesha is currently unemployed. The money will also help pay for a proper funeral and burial for Wesley.