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Divers Suspend Canal Search For Kidnapped NorCal Boy

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Juliani Cardenas (left) and Jose Esteban Rodriguez. (CBS)

Juliani Cardenas (left) and Jose Esteban Rodriguez. (CBS)

PATTERSON, Stanislaus County (AP) — Authorities stopped searching a canal Thursday that they thought might have contained the car of a man suspected of abducting a 4-year-old Central Valley boy.

“The search is “almost back to square one,” Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said after searchers pulled a silver Lexus from the Delta-Mendota canal outside Patterson on Thursday.

It was not the silver Toyota Corolla linked to Tuesday’s kidnapping of Juliani Cardenas, whom deputies suspect was kidnapped from his grandmother’s home by Jose Esteban Rodriguez, 27, his mother’s ex-boyfriend.

A statewide Amber Alert remained in effect, but Christianson said there were still no signs of the boy or the suspect.

Rodriguez has a criminal record, that includes domestic violence, the Modesto Bee reported.

Authorities released a surveillance video showing Rodriguez buying beer at a convenience store about an hour before the kidnapping. But investigators have not uncovered any electronic trail that he has purchased gas or food, Christianson said.

“If there are any sightings, please call us,” he said at a news conference.
Divers spent hours searching the canal Wednesday after a witness reported seeing a vehicle fitting the description of Cardena’s Toyota plunge into the water. Later in the day, they pulled an Infiniti sedan from the canal that had been stolen in 2007.

More than 100 people gathered Wednesday for a candlelight vigil outside the home where the boy lived with his mother and grandmother.

Tabitha Cardenas, the missing boy’s mother who is eight months pregnant with Rodriguez’s child, told CBS 5 she was relieved no bodies were discovered underwater.

“I knew that if the car was found that Jose and Juliani would not be in it,” said Cardenas, who broke up with Rodriguez several months ago.

Cardenas doesn’t think Rodriguez would harm her son.

“I just pray that he comes to his senses and realizes what he’s doing is wrong,” she said.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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