For the second day in a row a team of Delaware County divers came up empty-handed after searching the waters of the Susquehanna River for a 7-month-old-baby boy who has been missing for weeks.
Chester Police say that the department’s Underwater Search and Recovery Unit conducted a search along river in York County for several hours Thursday for the body of Hamza Ali. The little boy was allegedly kidnapped in Upper Darby and presumed dead earlier this month.
The six member crew also searched for the child on Wednesday for nearly 13 hours after a cadaver dog alerted police to a scent near a car located about 25 to 30 yards from the river.
Police say they do not plan to search the river again for the missing boy.
On Tuesday, a kidnapping charge against Ummad Rushdi -- who is accused of killing the boy and trying to conceal the death -- was upgraded to murder and other related charges.
“This is a barbaric act committed by a barbarian,” said Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood at a Tuesday press conference. “We will move forward now without the body."
Rushdi was arraigned not only the existing kidnapping charge but also criminal homicide, first-, second- and third-degree murder charges, concealment of a child's whereabouts, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse, according to court documents.
Magisterial Judge Harry Karapalides revoked Rushdi's bail as well.
Earlier, Delaware County Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Wills said she expected to charge Rushdi with Ali's murder even if they don't recover Ali's body.
The baby went missing Aug. 4. Rushdi, 30, was arrested earlier this month in York County, Pa.
Rushdi allegedly admitted to investigators that he killed Ali claiming it was accidental, according to a affidavit of probable cause.
"We don't believe it, if it's an accident, where's the baby?" asked Chitwood.
The search for Ali's body has covered multiple spots in the state after Ali's mother, Zainab Gaal, awoke to find her child and Rushdi gone.
“The areas that we’ve searched were locations that we had reasonable suspicion that the baby might be. We believe that the baby was placed in a makeshift grave and moved,” said Chitwood.
Searches were conducted in Upper Darby and in York and in Columbia Counties, where dogs led investigators to a pillowcase that belonged to Rushdi. They also have searched parks and a landfill.
“We’re looking for a baby but it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack," said Chitwood earlier this month. "There has been a land search, there has been a sea search and we have not been able to find him. The one person who knows where that baby is, is the scumbag that killed that baby... pure and simple.”
Police say Rushdi may have injured the child a few days before he disappeared. He is the boyfriend of the child’s mother, according to police.
Chitwood said investigators believe that Rushdi beat the baby to death because the baby interfered with Rushdi's life. Investigators believe that Rushdi murdered the baby and disposed of his body because he felt the child was hindering his relationship with the mother.
Chitwood said that Hamza's mother wanted to take the boy for hospital treatment a few days before he disappeared, because Rushdi apparently injured his arm or shoulder. Police said Gaal was prevented from doing so by Rushdi's family.
“It’s been a difficult investigation,” said Chitwood. “I know that mother has pleaded many times with the defendant to tell her where the baby is.”
Police have said Rushdi's brother, Jawwad Rushdi, told them that suspect admitted shaking the boy to death and burying him.
Police suspect Rushdi may have first buried Hamza near the Susquehanna River town of Columbia, as his brother's vehicle became stuck there on Aug. 4. They think he may have then exhumed the boy's remains and given him a religious burial in another location.
Police asked for information about either Ummad or Jawwad Rushdi, as well as a leased cab that Jawwad Rushdi drove. They asked people for information related in particular to the time period Aug. 4-6.
“We definitely need some luck but we also want people to pay attention to what they might have seen that could help in this investigation,” said York Police Captain Tom Gross.
Police have said Jawwad Rushdi has been cooperative, and he hasn't been charged with a crime.