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Couple charged in 4-year-old's murder fail to show up in court

Mother pleads for couple to turn themselves in
Posted at 5:00 PM, Jan 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-30 11:31:07-05

CLEVELAND — The search continues for the couple with numerous charges related to the death of 4-year-old Eliazar Ruiz after they failed to show up to their arraignment Tuesday morning.

Joanna Vega and Romaine Tolbert were indicted two weeks ago on charges including murder, involuntary manslaughter, gross abuse of a corpse, kidnapping, and permitting child abuse in connection with the child’s death. Their first court date was scheduled to be Jan. 29. They did not appear.

Eliazar’s remains were found in a garbage bag behind a vacant home on Longmead Avenue in September 2017.

According to the indictment, Eliazar was killed sometime between March 1, 2015 and Sept. 20, 2017.

Eliazar was given to Vega and Tolbert, his godparents, to care for him while his mother Ashley Makuhan served time in prison.

“He was a very smart little boy, very happy, very playful, rambunctious,” Makuhan said.

Makuhan saw a news report from inside prison and was able to identify sketches as her son Eliazar.

“I knew that they knew something because she had my son. She was his godmother,” Makhuhan said. “But it’s just a shock. Everything is just a shock.”

Now, she said, the shock continues as the couple failed to show up for their initial court date and are believed to be on the run. Warrants were issued for their arrest on the indictment, and Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for any information leading to their arrest. Tips can be anonymous.

“There will justice for my son and I will not stop fighting until there is,” Makuhan said, pleading with anyone who has information about Vega and Tolbert's whereabouts to please call Cleveland Police.

The couple was never initially arrested because the case had to be investigated. Once the indictment was obtained, detectives began looking for them but they were never located, according to police.