The mystery behind the death of a young boy whose naked body washed ashore on a Texas beach in October 2017 was solved this week, cops say.
Rebecca Rivera, the child’s mother, and her girlfriend, Dania Amezquita-Gomez, were arrested by police in Galveston this week and charged with fabricating or tampering with physical evidence in connection with the boy’s death, police told the Associated Press.
The couple is being held in the Galveston County Jail, Rivera on $250,000 bond, and Amezquita-Gomez on $100,000 bond, as well as an immigration hold.
When the boy’s body was found, police named him “Little Jacob,” but his real name, police said at a press conference announcing the arrests on Wednesday, is Jayden Alexander Lopez. No one reported him missing.
Police say Rivera admitted “she was stressed out and took this out on Jayden by striking him with ‘whatever I could find,’” according to court documents cited by the Associated Press. She also said that two weeks before Lopez died, he hit his head on a wall, causing his face to swell.
Instead of bringing the child to a hospital for treatment, however, Rivera attempted to treat the boy herself, but over the following two weeks his health deteriorated and he died, she told police, according to the news agency.
When the boy died, Rivera and Amezquita-Gomez put Lopez’s body in a car and drove to Galveston, the police affidavit says. Then she put the boy’s body in the water because when they took him to the beach while he was alive, she said, he had liked the water.
The boy’s body washed ashore in Galveston on Oct. 20, 2017. But he couldn’t be matched by police to any children reported missing, and there were no obvious signs of trauma, according to the Houston Chronicle, a local newspaper.
Authorities released a sketch of the boy’s face, and put up billboards throughout Texas and Southern states, all to no avail.
“No one reported Jayden as missing. No one was looking for Jayden. Jayden had no advocate other than us,” Bryan Gaines, a supervisory senior resident agent with the FBI said at Wednesday’s news conference.
“Someone took a beautiful, innocent child and discarded him in the ocean as if he was a piece of trash,” Gaines added.
An autopsy provided some clues. The boy didn't drown. He'd been at sea for 12 to 48 hours before he was found, and he'd likely been dumped in the water near East Beach or the Houston Ship Channel, according to the Chronicle.
He had also been abused, the autopsy found, with evidence a broken leg bone, bruises and extreme malnourishment, the newspaper reported.
Hundreds of tips poured in, police said, but they lead nowhere, until police made a controversial, rare move and released a crime scene photo of the dead boy in January. Then, in March, a tipster called the FBI and said he believed Rivera was the boy's mother.
DNA testing lead to a positive identification, and the arrests of Rivera and Amezquita-Gomez.
A small shrine to the boy remained on Wednesday atop the seawall near the beach with Lopez’s body was found in October, the Chronicle said. The shrine included a makeshift cross painted with a message, "You Mattered Little Guy."
[Photo: Galveston Police]
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.