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Authorities are scrambling to identify the remains of a young boy who was found dead in a Las Vegas-themed suitcase over the weekend in rural Indiana, state police said.
The unidentified boy, who police believe is around five years-old, was found deceased inside the luggage by a homeowner foraging for mushrooms in a wooded area in Washington County on Saturday evening. Police say the suitcase was emblazoned with the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada” sign.
“This time of year, there are lots of mushroom hunters out in the woods,” Sgt. Carey Huls of the Indiana State Police told Oxygen.com on Wednesday morning. “[They] observed something out of place there in the woods — it was a horrific find — with the multi-bright-colored suitcase with the Vegas strip emblem on both sides. He went to investigate and made that horrific discovery.”
The suitcase was located near a dead-end road in the 7000 block of East Holder Road in New Pekin; state police described the area as an isolated and sparsely populated part of the county, located in the southeast corner of the state. The closest major city is Louisville, Kentucky, which is about 30 miles away.
Investigators publicly released images of the colorful baggage this week and are hopeful that someone may recognize the “distinctive” suitcase and come forward. The vibrant wheeled suitcase prominently features an illustration of the Las Vegas strip, including several palm trees, and measures approximately 30 inches in height.
“We still haven’t identified this young man — even after the autopsy we don’t have a lot of answers that we were looking for, even the cause of death,” Huls said.
The child is described as a black boy around five years old, who police estimate was approximately four feet tall; that would have placed him in the 99th percentile for height at the age of five. They added that he had a slender build and short haircut. It’s currently unknown how or when the suspected five-year-old boy may have died, as preliminary autopsy results came back inconclusive on Tuesday as to a possible cause of death, officials said. A a toxicology analysis is still pending.
Authorities remain particularly puzzled as to the boy’s origins, who they speculated could be from a different part of the state or country.
“We just really want to help because the longer this goes on, the more and more it looks like it could not be a local boy, a local child,” Huls said. “We’ve looked at everything here and working with our schools in this area, nobody has [been] reported missing that would match this description, nobody’s been truant that would match this description. Everybody’s accounted for.”
State investigators, who are combing through about 200 public tips, said they’ve also been in contact with numerous law enforcement agencies around the country regarding possible matches to other missing children’s cases.
“The wider we spread this net, the information going out, the more likely we’re going to get the answer and be able to identify this young man and give him a voice,” Huls stated. “He may not be from this area, maybe not even from this country. Anywhere we can get the word spread out there, it could be somebody in New York or Los Angeles, someplace that says ‘hey, this sounds familiar.’”
Codi Bigsby, a 4-year-old who vanished from Virginia in January was one potential match Indiana authorities had been eying. However, detectives are now confident the unknown boy found in Indiana isn’t a match for Bigsby after consulting with Hampton Police.
“Our investigators have been in touch with those investigators and others in the country that are close matches at this point, although the autopsy was completed yesterday, nothing is coming back saying that would be a match in that case,” Huls said. “We don’t have any case that’s already listed out that looks like it’s a match. We’ll still be open to working with those agencies if they feel like we need to.”
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is also assisting local law enforcement in their desperate attempts to identify the suspected five-year-old.
"It’s extremely important that the public be involved with this young boy’s case," Carol Schweitzer, who works in Forensic Services at National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, told Oxygen.com. "If anyone knows of a child that they haven’t seen or spoken to in less than a week that matches this child’s description or recognize this very distinct suitcase, please let someone know.”
No further information was released by authorities regarding the active case this week.
Anyone with additional information pertaining to the unknown child’s identity is urged to call a toll-free Indiana State Police tip-line at 1-888-437-6432.
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