Buffalo Police have released surveillance footage of two persons of interest seen fleeing from a burning car with a small boy believed to be the same one later found alone sleeping on a stranger’s porch.
Investigators are still trying to piece together the complex case that began earlier this week when a young boy, who has later been identified as 3-year-old Noelvin Valentin, was found asleep in a cardboard box that a Buffalo woman left out on her porch for stray cats.
When the woman discovered him outside her home, he told her his car had been on fire. About a mile away, police later discovered a car that had been completely incinerated with the charred remains of two people inside, according to WGRZ.
The boy is believed to have been traveling to Buffalo from his home state of Florida with his parents, Nicole Merced Plaud, 24, and Miguel Valentin-Colon, 31, relatives have said. It’s also believed a family friend, 29-year-old Dhamyl Roman-Audiffred, was along for the trip. Police have said the family arrived in Buffalo Sunday night.
Authorities have not been able to identify the bodies in the burnt-out rental car linked to Noelvin’s parents—and say it may take weeks to do so—but the surveillance footage offers new clues into what Buffalo Police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo has called a “horrific, horrific crime.”
The first of three videos released by Buffalo Police shows a man walking along a dirt road at 2:54 a.m. toward the area where the car was discovered. In the second video, recorded six minutes later at 3:01 a.m., the man is seen again, along with a second man and a small boy, who authorities believe is Noelvin, running away from the car. A bright flash can be seen in the top left corner of the footage, which investigators believe is likely the car on fire.
The third video is an enhanced version of the second, which shows the first suspect in greater detail as he stops to put some sort of clothing on his head and then picks up what appears to be one or two gas cans before heading away from the vehicle.
"The vehicle was completely incinerated. The contents inside the vehicle was nothing more than ashes," Jeff Rinaldo told the media Thursday, according to ABC News. "We can now positively identify that vehicle as being the vehicle that the family rented and drove to Buffalo, New York."
Police said the car—a white Chrysler Pacifica—was found behind Black Rock Mini Storage on Tonawanda Street, The Buffalo News reports.
Authorities have designated Plaud, Valentin-Colon and Roman-Audiffred as missing persons in the complicated case.
“It’s going to take some time to put this all together,” Rinaldo told reporters.
While authorities have been unable to make any positive identification of the remains found in the car, the families of Noelvin’s parents say they haven't heard from their loved ones in days.
Valentin-Colon last spoke with his sister around 6 p.m. Sunday in what she later described as a “normal” conversation.
After learning Noelvin had been discovered alone on a stranger’s porch, the boy's grandparents traveled to Buffalo in the hopes of reuniting him with their family.
On Wednesday morning, his grandparents were able to visit with the 3-year-old at the Erie County Social Services office, The Buffalo News reports.
Once they sat down with their grandson on the floor, his grandmother Zenaida Colon reported he began to interact with them “like we always do.”
“We sat and played with him and we laughed,” she said. “He did great.”
Zenaida Colon tried to assume temporary custody of the boy, but that initial request was denied; a custody hearing has been set for Oct. 9.
Erie County Child Protective Services plans to coordinate with Florida authorities to conduct a home visit before any custody decisions are made, the local paper reports.
After a nearly two-hour supervised visit, Zenaida Colon said she said goodbye to her grandson and plans to return home to Florida to prepare for the home visit.
“He is a sweet boy,” she said. “He gives a lot of hugs and kisses and we got to do that with him.”
Noelvin did not mention his parents during the visit and his grandmother said they did not ask him any questions about his parents during their brief time together.
Police are asking that anyone with information about the case to contact investigators.
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