3-year-old found asleep on stranger's porch as cops discover burned-out car with human remains nearby
Police in Buffalo, N.Y., are still baffled by the mystery of a 3-year-old boy who was found sleeping on a stranger's porch Monday morning.
The mysterious incident started when Lois Augsburger found the toddler, identified only by his first name, Noelvin, sleeping alone in a cardboard box that she initially put out for stray cats.
She called the police, who immediately launched a search for the boy's parents. Less than 10 hours later, they came across a burned-out car containing human remains within a mile of where Noelvin was found.
Authorities have yet to officially link the two incidents. However, Augsburger said the toddler's behavior suggested they were connected.
"I said, Where's your mommy, honey?," she told WKBW-TV. "He said, 'The car's on fire.' That's all he kept saying."
The search continued through Tuesday, when police were able to locate the boy's grandmother, Zenaida Colin, who provided his parents' names. She identified them as Nicole Mersed, 24, and Miguel Valentin, 31, a couple from Orlando, Fla.
Neither Mersed nor Valentin — both of whom are now officially considered missing — have been seen or heard from since Sunday evening.
In the meantime, police have been investigating the mysterious burned-out car, which they now believe caught fire around 3 a.m. Monday morning. The blaze was likely so hot that the fire extinguished itself, destroying much of the vehicle and making the identification process extremely difficult.
Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo said Tuesday that the case is "a complicated investigation" that is "going to take quite some time to put this all together." However, he also admitted that the evidence connecting the two incidents seems compelling.
"It’s extremely odd that after this amount of time has passed that we wouldn’t have received a missing child call by now," he said. "We see a fair amount of children that wander away, especially if grandma or grandpa happen to be watching them."
Rinaldo said previously that one obstacle in connecting the dots was Noelvin himself, who hasn't been able to fully communicate how he ended up at a stranger's house Monday morning.
"The child is not extremely verbal, which made it difficult for us to attempt to figure out the circumstances of this child’s appearance on the porch," Rinaldo said Monday.
As authorities continue to investigate the case, Noelvin will remain with Erie County Child Protective Services, where he's been since Monday. Colin, the grandmother, attempted to take custody of the 3-year-old, but she was temporarily denied.
There will be a new custody hearing for Noelvin in October, WKBW-TV reported. In the meantime, anyone with information on the case is asked to call Buffalo homicide detectives at 716-851-4466 or the Confidential TIP CALL Line at 716-847-2255.