The body of a small boy found washed ashore on a Galveston beach in October 2017 has been identified and his mother and her partner have been arrested, police say.
Late last year, Galveston police asked for help identifying the young boy they called "Little Jacob." The boy matched no missing person reports and no one came forward to claim the child's body.
On Jan. 30, police released an edited crime scene photograph of the boy hoping to generate more leads in the search for his identity. Police said the photo worked and led to hundreds of new tips - two of which believed the boy to be 4-year-old Jayden Alexander Lopez, of Houston.
Investigators soon learned Jayden Lopez had not been seen since October 2017 and that he was believed to be under the care of his mother, 34-year-old Rebecca Rivera, and her partner, 31-year-old Dania Amezquita-Gomez. Using DNA, investigators were able to confirm the boy's identity and his relationship to Rivera.
"We cannot adequately convey how thankful we are for the hundreds of tips received from citizens all over the nation," Galveston police said in a statement. "This is a perfect example of how police and individual citizens work together to make our communities safer. If not for the public’s help, Jayden would likely have never been identified and we would never have been able to truly lay him to rest."
While Lopez's cause of death remains a mystery, Galveston police said they believe Rivera and Gomez had knowledge of the boy's death and were present when his body was left on the beach. Both women were arrested and charged with felony tampering with or fabricating physical evidence; Gomez is also being held on an immigration detainer. The women are being held in the Galveston County Jail on bonds of $250,000 and $100,000, respectively.
Bryan Gaines, a supervisory senior resident agent with the FBI, called the crime "appalling" at a press conference Wednesday announcing the arrests.
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"No one reported Jayden as missing. No one was looking for Jayden. Jayden had no advocate other than us," he said. "Someone took a beautiful, innocent child and discarded him in the ocean as if he was a piece of trash."
Police said more charges may be forthcoming as the ongoing investigation unfolds.