Body found in canal where kidnapped boy discovered 

A body matching the description of the man suspected of kidnapping a 4-year-old boy was found Saturday in a Central California canal, authorities said.

The body was discovered around 8:30 a.m. in the Delta-Mendota Canal, near Patterson, by a water authority employee, the Stanislaus County sheriff's department said.

The body of the kidnapping victim, Juliani Cardenas, was found in the same canal on Feb. 1 further downstream, Sheriff Adam Christianson said.

According to Christianson, investigators were not able to recover fingerprints because the body had been in the water for too long.

But based on the physical description and clothing found on the body, Christianson said he believes it is that of Jose Rodriguez, 27.

"There are no other reports of missing persons, and there is no other evidence or information that leads us to believe that it is anyone other than Jose Rodriguez," Christianson said.

A positive identification, however, remained pending. An autopsy is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday.

Christianson said dental records could confirm the man's identification, but investigators will likely need DNA samples. A DNA analysis would take two to three weeks, he said.

Rodriguez, the ex-boyfriend of Juliani's mother, was suspected of taking the child from the boy's Patterson home on Jan 18 and then driving into the canal.

The body discovered Saturday was found about 11 miles south of where a farmworker reported seeing Rodriguez's car go into the canal.

Christianson said Juliani's body was found about 31 miles south of that point.

About 1,000 people gathered at Patterson High School's football stadium on Friday night to remember Juliani. Many in the crowd wore T-shirts with his face printed on the front; pictures of the boy were also shown on a large projection screen.

"He was so cute," the boy's mother, Tabitha Cardenas, told the crowd during a tearful eulogy. "I can honestly say that I have no regrets because I loved him, and he always knew how much I loved him."

Tabitha Cardenas said the daughter she'll give birth to in a few weeks will also be named Juliani.

Patterson resident Mary Clemmer attended the community memorial and told the Modesto Bee it was the first step to bring closure to Juliani's death. "A mother lost a child, a grandmother lost a child and this city has lost a child," she said.

A private funeral service for Juliani was set for next Friday.

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