Investigators Look for Answers

Investigators Look for Answers Three young boys missing since Wednesday were found dead Friday evening in a car trunk in their neighborhood. Now, police are trying to determine if their deaths were accidental.

"This is a moment that the families and city hoped it would not have to face," said Camden County Prosecutor Vince Sarubbi. "It's too early for us to give any definitive information."

Sarubbi urged people to stay away from the Bergen Avenue residence where the boys were found. He also said the medical examiner would be working through the night to evaluate the scene.

NBC 10 reporter Harry Hairston spoke with a family member, who said the car was on the property of the family of Anibal Cruz, one of the missing boys. The bodies were found by two men, one of whom was the father of one of the boys.

TV camera crews and more than 100 people were at the scene when the bodies were found, since a vigil for the boys had been planned to start shortly before the discovery.

The three children have been identified as Anibal Cruz, 11; Daniel Agosto, 6; and Jesstin "Manny" Pagan, 5, all of Camden.

Sarubbi said at a press conference that it was an open investigation and it was too early to tell if the deaths were a tragic accident or if a criminal investigation was warranted.

Police Chief Edwin J. Figueroa said police believed the car was searched before. He said the search began Thursday morning in the area where the car was and bloodhounds were at the scene then.

However, Figueroa said police were trying to determine if the car's trunk had been searched before the boys were found. He also said the car is an older model and may not have had an inside trunk release.

Figueroa said that it hadn't yet been determined if there was any trauma suffered by the children.

Unaired ground footage from an NBC crew at the scene showed family members and friends reacting at the scene before police arrived, with several parents collapsing from grief as dozens of people screamed.

Police rushed to the scene and immediately cordoned off the property with yellow crime scene tape and draped white sheets over the tape to shield the car from view.

Family members then left on a special bus to go to a police station to meet with grief counselors.

The families of the three Camden children had made a tearful plea to the public Friday afternoon for help find their missing boys. There was a $9,000 reward and the public had been invited to contribute.

The mothers of the three children - Elba Cruz, Jessica Pagan, Iraida Roman - appeared on camera earlier Friday to ask the public to send any information about the case to police.

"All you guys, we love you. We want you back. We're not mad at you. Please come back. Please bring my baby back," said Jessica Pagan, a mother of Jesstin "Manny" Pagan. "If you have him, please let him go, please."

"If anyone has seen the three kids, please contact that number that they gave you, "said Iraida Roman, the mother of Daniel Agosto. "We want them back home as soon as possible."

The mother of Anibal Cruz spoke in Spanish and asked for anyone with information to come forward.

During the emotional pleas, many family members along with some officials were in tears on the podium.

Police had been working closely with family members to track down all possible leads.

More than 100 searchers, including police officers, volunteers, firefighters, helicopters, dive teams and bloodhounds, were looking for the three children.

The children were last seen by friends and relatives playing in a yard near Bergen Avenue at around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Officials said the boys were too young to have wandered very far since last being seen Wednesday evening. The river is about three blocks from the home where they were playing.

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Author: Copyright 2005 by NBC10.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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