Los Angeles County coroners’ officials were still trying to determine Sunday whether the body discovered on an island of the Los Angeles River the day before belonged to 14-year-old Elias “Eli” Rodriguez, who went missing on Feb. 17 after leaving his San Fernando school amid a heavy rainstorm.
The body, which was found in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, was too battered from the wash for the parents to view on Saturday, said Deputy Chief Robert Green of Los Angeles Police Department’s Operations-Valley Bureau in a text message.
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Eli’s passport was brought to coroner’s office on Saturday and it’s possible that an identification could be made using the photo, Green said. If that does not work, dental records will be used, Green said.
“Hopefully within the week” an identification will be made, Investigator Rudy Molano of the L.A. County Medical Examiner/Coroner said on Sunday.
Los Angeles police Sgt. Greg Bruce said Saturday that the body was “very likely” that of the missing teen.
A call made to the teen’s aunt was not immediately returned Sunday.
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Police were searching the canal area from the Foothill area to the 5 and 170 freeways on Saturday for any sign of Eli when a volunteer searching ahead of the team spotted the body on an island of the river near the 5 Freeway in the Los Feliz area, said LAPD Capt, Peter Casey of the Mission Division at a news conference Saturday.
Since Eli went missing, police confirmed from video footage at the Cesar Chavez Learning Academies in San Fernando that Eli left a phone message for his mother from someone’s cellphone. A second camera system caught him walking the path he walks every day to his grandmother’s home, Casey said.
“Then there’s no image for Eli; and he’s not heard or seen from since,” Casey said. “Talking to his friends that walk with him, it was learned that his normal path coming home from school to his grandma’s residence is where he’d cross the canal to make a shortcut.”
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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, in a statement released Sunday about the teen’s possible death, said “there is nothing more painful than the loss of a child.”
“Words cannot capture the agony that Elias’ grieving family has felt since his disappearance,” Garcetti said.
Garcetti said he has asked his crisis response team, who have been with the family, “to do everything possible to help them through what is surely their worst nightmare.”
The Los Angeles City Council approved a $50,000 reward last week for information leading to the boy’s recovery.
The FBI had recently joined the investigation for the teen, who police said had never gone missing before.
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