The parents of a disabled toddler reported missing from his bed are now in custody on murder charges, police announced.
Sukhjinder Sran, 42, and Briseida Sran, 29, were arrested Friday on suspicion of murder for the death of 2-year-old Thaddeus, whose burned remains were believed to have been found last week at an almond farm in central California.
During a news conference, Madera Police Chief Dino Lawson said authorities were awaiting final autopsy results on a small, burned body found in an "agricultural fire pit" by cadaver dogs. He said there is a “very strong possibility” the remains belong to Thaddeus.
"We will continue because it's an ongoing case, but I'm here before you to say that little Thaddeus will have some justice," Lawson told reporters.
Thaddeus was born prematurely and had several medical conditions, police said. He required a feeding tube and was nonverbal. He was just learning to walk, but mostly crawled to get around, authorities said.
His parents reported him missing, saying they put him to bed the night before and found him gone in the morning, Lawson said.
Briseida Sran, who is eight months pregnant and due to give birth in a few weeks, was given a medical exam before being placed in jail, authorities said.
The parents' attorney, Roger Nuttall, said he was stunned by their arrests and that the toddler's father called him distraught from jail.
"I have no reason to believe that these people would purposely hurt their children, their child," he said. He described the father as a hard-working truck driver and the mother as a part-time employee. The couple has three other children who have been placed in the custody of Child Protective Services, he said.
The parents had been previously investigated over the 2015 death of a 4-month-old daughter, also born prematurely with several medical conditions, police said. Her death was attributed to SIDS and no charges were filed, but the case remains open, Lawson said.
The police chief did not answer questions about whether the two cases are related. Nuttall said his clients had been cleared in the earlier case.
The couple were arrested at their Madera home, about four miles from the remote spot where the burned remains were found. Residents have gathered at the site, bringing candles, stuffed animals and photos in remembrance of the child.