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Child's body found in Central Valley canal [Updated]

February 1, 2011 | 12:06 pm

The body of a 4-year-old child has been found in the Central Valley canal where an alleged kidnapper’s car was recovered last week, authorities said.

The body was found Tuesday morning in the Delta-Mendota Canal near Santa Nella, about 30 miles downstream from where the car linked to the kidnapping of the boy was discovered, said Stanislaus County Deputy Sheriff Royjindar Singh.

The body has not yet been identified, but Stanislaus County coroner’s investigators will conduct DNA tests to determine if it is Juliani Cardenas, who was kidnapped Jan. 18 in the town of Patterson.

A worker for the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority discovered the body just after 7:30 a.m., extracted it from the water and called 911, said Merced County Sheriff’s Deputy Tom MacKenzie.

The body matched the physical description of the missing 4-year-old and was wearing the clothing the boy was last seen wearing, MacKenzie said.

[Updated at 12:20 p.m.: The Modesto Bee is reporting that Tabitha Cardenas, Juliani’s mother, apparently posted this on her Facebook page shortly after 11 a.m. Tuesday:

I have the worst news in the world to tell you all ... My son's body has been found in the canal no DNA has confirmed it but its his clothes and shoes have and it's a 4 year old boy. So I want everyone to pray that Jose's body is found so we can all know that he's burning in HELL and I don't have to worry about him taking my unborn baby girl ... ]

Divers searching the canal on Friday found the silver Toyota Corolla of Jose Esteban Rodriguez, the ex-boyfriend of Juliani’s mother, who investigators believe kidnapped the child from his grandmother. But there were no signs of him or the child inside.

A farm worker told police he saw a car that matched the description of the Toyota go airborne and plunge into the canal about 45 minutes after the kidnapping.

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-- Tony Barboza

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