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Woman Charged In Son's 'Absolutely Disturbing' Death After Telling Cops He Vanished While Feeding Ducks

"Just immediately my gut instinct said, 'They did this, this was not an accident. They are covering something up,'" says suspect's cousin. 

By Jill Sederstrom

A woman who said her son vanished while the two were together at a Las Vegas area park has now been arrested in connection with her 3-year-old's death.

Cassie Smith told the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police she had taken her son, Daniel Theriot, to the park Sunday to feed the ducks, according to a statement by authorities. The child disappeared while her back was turned during a phone call, she told police.

The missing child report sparked a nine-hour search for the missing 3-year-old. However, during the investigation, police were unable to find witnesses who saw the pair together, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Theriot's body was discovered Monday near the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Although police have not said what led them to the body, they believe the child died about 12 hours before he was ever reported missing.

The cause of death has not been released, but Metropolitan Police Department Homicide Lt. Ray Spencer said the death was "absolutely disturbing" and had "nothing accidental about it," the paper reported.

Smith's boyfriend, 40-year-old Joshua Oxford, has also been arrested in connection with the case. Oxford was at home with Smith's other child at the time Theriot was reported missing. When officers arrived to question him, they saw signs of abuse on her other son and took him to be examined at Sunrise Hospital, police said.

Smith and Oxford have both been charged with child abuse or neglect. Murder charges are pending and could be filed after the autopsy is complete, police said.

Smith's cousin, Crystal Kahles, said she had been suspicious of the couple when news first broke that Theriot was missing.

"Just immediately my gut instinct said, 'They did this, this was not an accident. They are covering something up,'" She told FOX5 after the boy's body had been discovered.

According to Kahles, Smith had only been living in Las Vegas for about a month and had lived with Kahles' mother before that in Texas.

She described her cousin as "neglectful," but said there were no signs of abuse until Smith began dating Oxford.

“It’s when Josh started coming around, that's when the signs of abuse started, the bruises and everything, them acting out more,” she told the news channel.

She said Smith had cut off contact with her family after her move.

"She just wasn't deserving of those kids," Kahles told FOX 5. "They were so full of love and energy and laughter. And they were just innocent little babies."

Smith and Oxford have been taken to the Clark County Detention Center.

[Photo: Las Vegas Metropolitan Police]

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