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Hunt for missing young boy escalates after his mom found buried

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By GRAHAM RAYMAN, New York Daily News

Authorities upstate said Friday they fear the worst in the case of a missing 14-month-old boy whose mom was likely murdered and buried in a plastic bag.

The search for little Owen Hidalgo-Calderon has turned from a missing child case into a recovery mission, said Sheriff Gary Virts of Wayne County, N.Y., which is halfway between Syracuse and Rochester.

Owen’s mother, Selena Hidalgo-Calderon, 18, was found in the plastic bag between logs, covered in soil and branches behind her home in Sodus, Virts said.

“We believe she was murdered in the home and then carried from the home to the woods,” Virts said.

Her boyfriend, Ebavardo Gutierrez Reyes, 25, a Mexican immigrant, has been charged with tampering with evidence, after he admitted to police that he moved her body from the home and buried it with a shovel. He is jailed on $25,000 bail.

“It is beyond my realm of reasoning why someone would be killed and the infant would be missing,” Virts told reporters Thursday.

The boy, who suffers from asthma, was last seen with Reyes in Sodus on the evening of May 16, officials said.

Officers began searching for Owen and his mom early Sunday, after Hidalgo-Calderon’s mother reported them missing.

Mother and son were nowhere to be found in the house where they’d lived for three weeks while they worked as farm laborers, Virts said.

On Tuesday, Hidalgo-Calderon’s relatives said they last heard from her on May 15, which was unusual because she called almost every day.

But they suggested the couple may have run off because of their immigration status.

Later on Tuesday, a cadaver dog alerted in the doorway of the couple’s home — signaling the possible presence of a corpse.

That night, officers found video from a wildlife surveillance camera in woods. The footage showed Reyes going in and out of the woods five times on May 17, carrying a shovel.

The searchers found Hidalgo-Calderon early Wednesday. But she could not be immediately identified because of decomposition. She was finally identified Friday morning.

Reyes was arrested Wednesday night 63 miles west, in York, N.Y., Virts said.

He copped to burying the body, but declined to say how Hidalgo-Calderon died. “He made no statements as to the whereabouts of Owen,” he said.

Reyes was arraigned on the tampering charge Friday and jailed on $25,000 bail. The next hearing is set for Tuesday.

The search for Owen continues. Authorities issued an Amber Alert for him Friday.

“My daughter and my grandson were my life,” said Estela Calderon, Selena’s mother and Owen’s grandmother, in a statement issued by an immigrant rights group.

“She was my first born and I feel like a piece of my heart is gone,” she said.

Virts said he did not go public sooner because he wanted to stay focused on Reyes.

“We believed if we did an Amber Alert, we would have had side noise,” Virts said.

Virts said one problem with the investigation is his agency’s relationship with the area’s immigrant farmworkers. The workers are sensitive to deportation fears, he said.

“I have gone to great lengths to engage our Hispanic community,” he said, noting he does not seek assistance from ICE. “It is very difficult to engage them because they are very afraid.”

Officials asked anyone with information to call the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department at 866-697-2623.

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