The body of a missing disabled toddler is believed to have been found in a remote central California farming area, police said.
Two-year-old Thaddeus Sran was reported missing on July 16 by his parents, who said they last saw him when they put him to bed the night before and found him gone the next morning, according to the Madera Police Department.
Officers using cadaver dogs made the disturbing discovery Thursday, Police Chief Dino Lawson told reporters at a news conference. Human remains of a child between the ages of 2 and 3 were found about 9:15 a.m., he said.
“It’s a very strong possibility that it is little Thaddeus,” Lawson. Authorities are awaiting autopsy results to formally identify the child.
On Tuesday, the department announced the boy's parents were no longer speaking to detectives.
“Unfortunately, Thaddeus’ parents stopped cooperating early on in the investigation. We believe their assistance in this case would be helpful,” the department said in a statement. “We are hopeful that they will resume cooperating with Madera Police Department detectives and help us to locate Thaddeus.”
Minutes before Thursday's press conference, attorney Roger Nuttall, who said he represented the parents, issued a two-page statement saying the couple had been fully cooperative with investigators until their questions turned "accusatory" and that he advised them to stop talking to detectives without legal representation.
“I am advised by the Srans that thereafter, no further effort was made by members of law enforcement to personally speak with them further,” the statement said.
Asked about that, chief Lawson told reporters, “I stand by what our department released. Any deviation from that, I wouldn’t believe it.”
Thaddeus, who was nonverbal, was born prematurely and had several medical conditions, police said. He was just learning to walk and required a feeding tube. Lawson did not say what led officers to search the remote area outside Madera on Thursday.
The investigation is ongoing, he said. “I think we’re real close. We can bring some justice and a conclusion to this, hopefully soon,” he said.
The couple had a baby girl who died in 2015, police said.
That child was also born prematurely and was in the hospital for several months until the parents were able to bring her home, but ultimately died from SIDS, the family's attorney said.
"There was an investigation done and we have the medical records attesting the fragile condition of the baby, and that case was closed. There were no charges," Nuttall said.
Three other children of the couple have been placed in the custody of Child Protective Services, police said.