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Jury convicts man accused of killing 4-year-old boy found buried in Cleveland backyard

Posted at 10:15 AM, Oct 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-31 11:22:27-04

CLEVELAND — The man accused of killing a 4-year-old boy with help from his wife and burying him in the backyard of a Cleveland home was convicted by a jury, according to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.

Romaine Tolbert and his wife Joanne Vega were charged with murder, permitting child abuse, felonious assault, endangering children, involuntary manslaughter, gross abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and kidnapping in connection with the death of 4-year-old Eliazar Ruiz, according to court documents.

On Sept. 20, 2017, landscapers working in the 12900 block of Longmead Avenue found the boy's remains in the backyard of an abandoned home. Investigators said that it appeared the remains had been there for several months.

Vega is the godmother of Eliazar. The boy’s mother, who was incarcerated at the time, saw the sketch and alerted police to his identity, telling authorities that she left him in Vega’s custody when she went to jail in July 2016. He was reported missing the following summer.

A jury convicted Tolbert on one count of involuntary manslaughter, one count of kidnapping, one count of endangering children, one count of tampering with evidence and one count of gross abuse of a corpse.

He was found not guilty of murder.

RELATED: Couple accused of killing 4-year-old boy found buried in a trash bag behind Cleveland home booked into county jail