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Mother charged with murder in death of 5-year-old son whose remains were found in yard

Posted: 4:07 PM, Dec 20, 2017
Updated: 2017-12-21 22:04:07Z

The mother of a 5-year-old whose body was found in a west side backyard earlier this week has been charged with murder. 

Here's what led up to the charges against 34-year-old Larissa Rodriguez: 

Monday

A phone call to police from Pakistan regarding a missing 5-year-old named Jordan Rodriguez who had possibly been buried in a backyard by his mother and her boyfriend. The call brought authorities to their home on the 1360 block of West 80th Street on Dec 18.

In the call, the man, who said he is in the Air Force and was overseas in Pakistan, told dispatchers that his brother confessed to burying a child in the backyard of his home with his girlfriend after she found the boy unresponsive.

"It's kind of messed up, the whole situation, but my brother told me something and I just can't sleep at night," he said. "I feel like I need to tell you something."

Investigators converged on the woman's home on Monday night. Police searched the house and backyard but didn't find anything. The mother was taken into custody. Police returned the next day.

 

Tuesday

Cleveland police returned to the house with a warrant and were joined in their investigation by the FBI, Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office and the Cleveland Police Scientific Investigation Unit. Authorities started digging in the backyard of the home and human remains consistent with those of a young child were found buried.

Inhumane living conditions

An affidavit filed Dec. 19 from the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services described the house as "deplorable and unsanitary" and filled with rats and cockroaches . One of Rodriguez's children was seen eating a sandwich with cockroaches in it, according to court documents.

Five children — ages 1 to 12 — were removed from the home when the mother was taken into custody. 

The affidavit said the children were in "immediate danger" because of the conditions in the home and the investigation involving the mother.

"She takes care of them"

A neighbor, who said she was good friends with Rodriguez, gave a different account of the woman's parenting abilities. 

Genny Lopez described the woman as an "awesome mom" and said she didn't believe the stories she was hearing about possible abuse. 

She said she knew the woman had a lot of kids but said, "She takes care of them."

The mother's story

When police originally questioned Rodriguez about the tip they received and the whereabouts of the 5-year-old, she told them the child's aunt had picked up Jordan and taken him to visit his father in Texas on Dec. 2.

Rodriguez told police the boy "has special needs and is unable to speak."

She was unable to provide a phone number, address or way to contact the boy's father. According to the police report, she referred to Jordan's father as a "donor" who she met on Facebook. Family members told News 5 she had several "donors," and there were multiple men who she met online that later fathered individual children of hers.

The police report states investigators attempted to contact the boy's aunt who allegedly took the child to Texas but were unable to locate her at her Cleveland address. Investigators also checked on a woman with the same name in the Houston area but came up empty as well.

A history with children and family services

According to Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services, Rodriguez has nine children including Jordan. Her first encounter with the agency happened when she was 15 and was taken from her parent's custody in 1998.

INVESTIGATION: DYING IN THE DARK: Ohio records laws cloak Cuyahoga Co. child death cases in secrecy

Court records show her parents had allowed Rodriguez and her child to live with her abusive boyfriend, who left "bruises and contusions" on her after a domestic violence incident. Documents state the teen's parents were "overwhelmed with the care of their children" and were "unwilling to protect the child."

Years later, two of Rodriguez's children were permanently taken from her custody, including a son who was adopted by another family in 2005. According to documents from children and family services, a neglect complaint was filed four days after the child was born on April 3, 2003. 

A failed system

Ana Rodriguez , the sister of the mother in custody, blamed children and family services  for not stepping in sooner or following up on tips about the conditions in which the woman's children lived.

Rodriguez said she called the agency multiple times about the family, but nothing was ever done.

 

The boyfriend

The man who initially called police told dispatchers that Rodriguez's boyfriend helped bury the child. The boyfriend is currently being held in the Medina County Jail for an unrelated case in which he pleaded no contest to non-support of dependents on Sept. 19. 

His sentencing was scheduled for Nov. 2, and he was released on bond.

Court documents show he failed to report to authorities on Oct. 18, and a motion was filed to revoke his bond. A warrant was issued on Oct. 24. He was arrested the next day. 

On Nov. 6 he was sentenced to 180 days in jail. On Nov. 8, he wrote a letter to the judge asking for a sentencing reduction "due to [his] wife's high-risk pregnancy." He said she was 16 weeks pregnant with their child. 

On Tuesday morning the boyfriend was moved from his minimum security cell to the maximum security wing at Medina County Jail.

Jordan's father?

It's still unclear who Jordan's father is. According to the Ohio Department of Health, there was not a father listed on his birth certificate. 

A grisly discovery

Documents filed with the Cleveland Municipal Court said Rodriguez led investigators to a corpse that she buried "inappropriately."

The documents also stated the corpse "exhibited multiple signs of abuse, including broken ribs."

The medical examiner is still working to determine cause and manner of death of the remains found. 

Rodriguez was charged with murder on Thursday for "purposely causing the death" of her son Jordan.