State

New focus in search for kidnapped boy

Monday, January 31, 2011

There's a new focus now in the search for a missing 4-year-old boy and the man suspected of kidnapping him.

The Stanislaus County sheriff's department believes the next clues will be at the surface of the Delta-Mendota Canal.

Juliani Cardenas, 4, was taken from his grandmother's arms on Jan. 18.

The car investigators believe he was in was found in the canal on Friday, 10 days later.

Investigators believe Cardenas is probably in the canal, and they reached that conclusion with expert help from this Fresno business.

The waters of the Delta-Mendota Canal are about 45 degrees, pitch black, and 20 feet deep at the spot where dive teams from Stanislaus and Merced counties focused the search for Cardenas.

After pulling 13 vehicles from open waters, law enforcement finally found the car driven by the kidnapping suspect, Jose Rodriguez, 80 feet from the shore, inside a concrete tunnel.

It would be the most treacherous dive of the nine-day search, so into the water jumped a diver from Fresno's Action Towing.

"He searched the vehicles to see if anybody was in them and there was nobody, but the homicide detectives still treated it like a crime scene," said John Decicco, owner of Action Towing. "They wanted all three vehicles pulled out exactly like they were in the tunnel."

In about an hour's time, Action Towing pulled all three cars from the canal.

The sheriff's department kept the suspect's 2003 Toyota Corolla.

The other two cars are back at the company's lot in Fresno, along with another car they pulled out while looking for Cardenas on Saturday.

The haul earned the respect of sheriff's deputies who'd worked the scene for more than a week and they gave a special "challenge coin" to Decicco.

"They were very grateful we came out to help because nobody wants to see anybody get hurt," he said.

The Fresno company specializes in diving into confined spaces, using more sophisticated equipment than even most sheriff's department dive teams.

Before they gear up, divers train at least six weeks for tough situations like the canal's tunnels.

Over the last few years, police have called in their help to pull dozens of vehicles and 15 bodies out of water -- a gruesome task, but one Decicco embraces.

"It's part of what I do and if I can help law enforcement do it, I feel better," he said.

Stanislaus county is asking for help from this area again.

They're asking sheriff's departments in Fresno, Madera, and Merced counties to search the surface of the canal for any evidence of Juliani Cardenas or Jose Rodriguez.

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kidnapping, amber alert, crimetracker, state, corin hoggard
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