No One Inside Car Pulled from Patterson Canal

By Lori Preuitt
|  Saturday, Jan 29, 2011  |  Updated 8:03 AM PDT
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The suspect's car which was pulled from a <a title=Patterson was empty, but that was not good news for the sheriff." />

NBC Bay Area

The suspect's car which was pulled from a Patterson was empty, but that was not good news for the sheriff.

The Stanislaus County sheriff said the suspect's car in a statewide search for a missing four-year-old boy was empty when divers pulled it from the Delta-Mendota Canal near Patterson just before 6 p.m. Friday.

"It's very likely that we'll find them somewhere in this canal," Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said.

Last Tuesday 4-year-old Juliani Cardenas was kidnapped from his grandmother's arms. The man the little boy calls "Daddy," 27-year-old Jose Esteban Rodriguez, is suspected of taking him.

A dive team entered the water around 4:30 p.m. Friday, five hours after its discovery, but came out without any new information about possible bodies inside the car.  A tow truck then pulled the car out of the water and investigators found that it was empty.  The sheriff said it is likely the bodies of the boy and the suspect would be found even further downstream.

Crews have been searching the canal for more than a week after a farmworker reported seeing a car matching the description of the one used in the kidnapping go into the water hours after the little boy was taken.

So far officials have found more than a dozen vehicles in the canal. All were unrelated to the search until the find Friday morning.

Outside of the Cardenas family's home in Patterson, a note posted on the door stated, "As we await news of our beloved Juliani, we ask for privacy and continued prayers." The letter was signed by the Cardenas family.  The family was supposed to attend a candlelight vigil near their home later Friday.  "Just keep your eyes out for Jose and my son," Tabitha Cardenas, the boy's mother, told the media late Friday after the find. "Don't stop looking."

The car was wedged under a bridge or what the call a "siphon" and the water currents at the point in the canal were dangerous enough that divers were not allowed to go in the water until the flow decreased.  

Police said Rodriguez has not used his credit or debit cards and has not used his cell phone since the day Juliani disappeared.  Christianson said Rodriguez did not have the means or the resources to hide out for this long.

The search of the canal will continue Saturday morning.

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