Hours before a 3-year-old boy was found sleeping alone on a porch, police say the rental car that his parents were driving was burned and human remains were found inside.
Police in Buffalo, New York have been searching for the boy’s parents since he was found Monday morning. The boy was wrapped up in a blanket inside a cardboard box that had been left out for cats, CNN affiliate WIVB reported. He was wearing only a diaper, the affiliate said.
“He is a very sweet boy, and he gives a lot of hugs and kisses,” his grandmother, Zenaida Colon, told the affiliate.
The mother, father and a family friend of the child were traveling from Florida to Buffalo in a white Chrysler Pacifica SUV and were expected to arrive Sunday evening, Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo said.
The parents Nicole Merced Plaud, 24, and Miguel Anthony Valentin-Colon, 31, as well as their friend 29-year-old Dhamyl Mirella Roman-Audiffred, are considered missing persons.
“Buffalo Police are attempting to make contact with these three individuals or speak to anyone who has seen them in the past few days,” police said.
The child is currently in the care of the Erie County Child Protective Services, police said.
Human remains found in family’s car
The charred remains of two people were found inside the family’s rental car Monday evening, but their identities remain a mystery.
Rinaldo told reporters on Thursday the vehicle was “completely incinerated” and everything inside of it was “nothing more than ashes.” The process to identify the remains could take some time, he said.
The vehicle was found in a wooded area behind a storage facility in Buffalo’s Black Rock neighborhood. Surveillance video obtained by police showed the SUV at 2:51 a.m. ET as it arrived in the area and shortly after, an individual is shown walking toward the vehicle.
At 3:01 a.m., two people are seen leaving the area with the boy with a glare in the distance that police say was the van on fire. That area is about a mile from where the young child was discovered, WIVB reported.
Rinaldo said they appeared to be carrying at least one gas can. Police have labeled the two individuals “persons of interest” and according to Rinaldo, the two individuals do not match the description of any of the three missing persons.
Detectives are still trying to determine how the boy ended up sleeping on a porch. Rinaldo said the surveillance footage is “extremely important” to the case.
“It gives us a timeline as to when the fire started. It gives us a timeline of how the child was not inside the vehicle. It gives us exactly, now, two people who were present when this car started on fire, so it’s extremely important to us,” Rinaldo said.
Police are asking anyone with information about the case to contact police at 716-851-4466.
Investigators have not connected the remains in the burning car to the missing persons case and are treating it as a separate homicide case.
By Nicole Chavez, Rebekah Riess, and Christina Maxouris, CNN