Tragedy struck in South Jersey Tuesday morning when searchers found the body of a 3-year-old boy who went missing from his home.
The child, later identified as Brendan Link Creato, disappeared from a small apartment building along the 100 block of Cooper Street in Haddon Township overnight. His father reported the child missing to police about 6 a.m. Tuesday, said the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.
Sources with knowledge of the investigation said the boy's father was caring for him at the time of the disappearance.
Investigators told NBC10 a K-9 from the Delaware River Port Authority picked up the young boy’s scent and led officers to his body in a wooded area near South Park Drive on the Haddon Township side of the Cooper River about 9 a.m. Tuesday. A source with knowledge of the investigation told NBC10 that the death is suspicious.
As SkyForce10 hovered overhead a short time after the discovery, police could be seen investigating both sides of the river.
The location where the boy’s body was found is about one mile from the home.
The road from the boy's home to the park runs through a suburban neighborhood with bigger lots and larger homes.
The park itself is full of dangers, including stairs leading to a small concrete landing that drops off into the water of a branch of the Cooper River. By midday, the park was no longer considered a crime scene, though the area around the boy's home was still cordoned off.
Autopsy results were pending Tuesday.
A prayer vigil was held for the boy shortly before 7 p.m. During the event, some members of the crowd showed their support for the child's father.
"He didn't do this," said Bernadette Ferraro, a family friend. "We know he didn't do this. He loves his baby. He woke up and his baby was gone. Somebody awful did this to his baby."
Police have not named a suspect or revealed whether or not the child's death was the result of foul play.
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"It's devastating to hear something like that," said Mike Doolin, a neighbor. "The closer to home, it really affects you."
Samantha Denoto, Brendan's mother, also released a statement on her son's death:
We are heartbroken by the loss of our beautiful boy Brendan Creato. Along with the Creato family, who also lost a son and grandson, we are grieving and tremendously saddened. We thank the community, which searched this morning for Brendan and gathered tonight in his memory. We appreciate your efforts and kind words. We do not have any answers about what occurred. We do not intend to make any further statements. We do not plan to speak to the media. We request that we be provided with privacy during this very difficult time.
Camden County Prosecutors asked with information to contact Prosecutor’s Office Det. Michael Rhoads at (856) 225-8561 or Haddon Township Police Det. Don Quinn at (856) 833-6208. Tips may also be emailed.