Child’s Body Found in Canal: Sheriff

The worst fears of many Northern Californians proved true Tuesday for the people of Stanislaus County.

The sheriff's department said the found the body of a child was discovered in a canal in Merced County early Tuesday morning.

The body was 30 miles downstream from where Juliani Cardenas went missing Jan. 18.  Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said the body's description matches that of Cardenas, adding that the discovery brings closure to the case. "We lost the life of a little boy," Christianson said during a noon news conference.  He also asked for prayers for the little boy's mother and grandmother, both Patterson residents.

However, no positive identification has been made, and will not be made until DNA testing is done and that is expected to take two weeks.

The little boy was allegedly taken by the name he called "daddy," 27-year-old Jose Esteban Rodriguez. On Tuesday, only one body was found.

The Merced sheriff's department said crews were made aware of the find around 7:30 a.m. between the towns of Santa Nella and Gustine. Members of the Stanislaus sheriff's department drove to the canal to help make a possible identification.

The night Juliani was taken from his grandmother's arms, a farm worker reported seeing a car matching the description of the man who abducted the little boy going into the canal in Patterson. 

Last Friday, that vehicle was pulled from the canal but was empty.

Christianson has said since Friday that he believed both Cardenas and Rodriguez were dead, and it was only a matter of time before their bodies would be  found. There has been no activity on Rodriguez' cell phone and he hasn't tapped into his ATM or used his credit cards since Jan. 18. Christianson said Rodriguez did not have the means nor the resources to hide for that long. 

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