WICHITA, KS (AP) — A small, decomposing body found under a bridge in rural central Kansas is likely that of 5-year-old Lucas Hernandez, a Wichita boy who has been missing since February, police said Friday.
An autopsy to be performed Friday will confirm the body’s identity but “it is likely Lucas,” Wichita police chief Gordon Ramsay said at a news conference.
Law enforcement officers were called to the scene in Harvey County Thursday night after Lucas’ 27-year-old stepmother, Emily Glass, led a private investigator to the remains under the bridge on a gravel road near the town of Sedgwick, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Wichita. Ramsay said there were other details that indicate the body is Lucas, but that police cannot share that information.
The investigator, David Marshburn, called police about the body, and officers met him and Glass at the scene. Ramsay said Marshburn was hired by Lucas’ family. Marshburn told local media that Lucas’ paternal grandmother first contacted him for assistance.
Marshburn told police he arrived in Wichita from Smithfield, North Carolina, this week.
Pressed as to how Marshburn was able to locate the body so quickly when police have been searching unsuccessfully for months, Ramsay would only say that police are bound by “very strict rules” that do not apply to private citizens.
Glass was jailed Thursday on suspicion of felony obstruction of justice, but no charges are expected to be filed this week. Investigators are awaiting results of the autopsy later Friday before they can make a positive identification.
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said in an emailed statement Friday that his office will review early next week the results of the autopsy currently being conducted, as well as evidence gathered by law enforcement throughout this investigation.
When asked if other arrests are possible, Ramsay said only that the investigation is still “very active.”
Glass reported Lucas missing from their home on Feb. 17. Glass told police she last saw Lucas playing in his bedroom before she took a shower and fell asleep. He was gone when she woke up from her nap. She has not been charged in the boy’s disappearance, but Bennett had previously said she is a person of interest in the case.
The boy’s father, Jonathan Hernandez, was not at home when Lucas disappeared. Glass cared for her daughter and Lucas while he worked out of state for weeks at a time. Lucas’ biological mother didn’t live in the Wichita area when he disappeared.
Glass was found not guilty in May in an unrelated case accusing her of child endangerment involving her own 1-year-old daughter. Prosecutors alleged she smoked marijuana before driving the child to a restaurant.
Lucas was reported missing the day after that trip.
A court document related to that case said Lucas was frequently seen with bruises and cuts before he disappeared. The Sedgwick County juvenile court document indicated the state of Kansas was told at least twice that Lucas was being abused and was living in a dysfunctional and violent situation.