Divers remove kidnapping victim's car from canal 

Divers on Friday braved frigid water to recover the car of a kidnapping suspect from a tunnel some 50 feet below the surface of a Central California canal.

Earlier in the day, searchers discovered the Toyota Corolla belonging to Jose Rodriguez, who is suspected of kidnapping 4-year-old Juliani Cardenas on Jan. 18. It had not yet been determined if anyone was inside.

A single diver was attempting to attach a line to the car so a tow truck could drag it from the canal, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said. A backup diver was in the water to assist.

The divers had a two-hour window before water levels began to rise. Visibility in the 42-degree water was nearly zero.

The car was located toward the middle of a long underground tunnel connecting two sections of the canal.

"It's exactly like diving in a cave, except one where you can't see," Christianson said.

The car was found with sonar in the Delta-Mendota canal outside Patterson, a day after authorities considered suspending the search.

An underwater camera showed its license plate and confirmed the vehicle was owned by the suspect, Christianson said.

The camera was not able to peer inside the car.

"We do not know what's in the car. And we're not going to know what's in the car until we get it out of the water," Christianson said.

If divers failed to recover the car during their first attempt, they must wait another four hours for water levels to rise and recede before they can try again.

It would be up to the divers, who work for a commercial diving company based in Fresno, to try again after dark or wait until daylight Saturday, the sheriff said.

Authorities said Rodriguez, 27, is suspected of snatching his ex-girlfriend's son, Juliani Cardenas, from the arms of the boy's grandmother.

During a briefing for reporters, Christianson said he feared the worst.

"We're certainly saddened by the fact that we found the car even though we knew we would," he said. "As these days have progressed, we knew that the likelihood of bringing little Juliani home alive was diminishing exponentially."

Divers searched the canal for a week after receiving a tip about a car heading into the water. Almost every day brought the discovery of another vehicle in the waterway.

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