Buffalo police said Thursday they have not identified two bodies found inside a charred vehicle on Monday, but said the rental car was driven from Florida to Buffalo by the missing parents of a 3-year-old boy found sleeping alone on a West Side porch earlier that day.
The missing parents have been identified as Nicole Marie Merced Plaud, 24, and Miguel Anthony Valentin-Colon, 31.
The search continued through Tuesday, when police were able to locate the boys grandmother, Zenaida Colin, who provided his parents names. She identified them as Nicole Mersed, 24, and Miguel Valentin, 31, a couple from Orlando, Fla.
Also missing was Dhamyl Mirella Roman-Audiffred, 29, who was identified by police as their friend, according to Capt. Jeffrey Rinaldo.
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“Potentially all three of them are still alive. We have not identified the people in the vehicle,” he said.
“This is still a missing persons investigation … running alongside with now a homicide investigation,” Rinaldo said.
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Police said the vehicle arrived at its destination at 2:51 a.m. They released two surveillance videos that showed two people – whom they called people of interest – approaching the white Chrysler Pacifica at 2:54 a.m. Monday, minutes after it was driven into a desolate area off the 100 block of Tonawanda Street.
In a second video, the two people are seen leaving the area near the car at about 3:01 a.m. Monday with the couples toddler, Noelvin. They are carrying what appear to be gas cans.
Rinaldo also showed surveillance video during the news conference. It was recorded in the early morning hours of September 16th and showed two persons of interests. The surveillance video first shows a person walking in the direction of where the car was found. A second person of interest is seen putting a some cover on his head while another person is seen walking the toddler away.
Rinaldo pointed out that the surveillance video was shot with no light, but used infrared technology to produce artificial light.
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“Therefore, it can distort colors of skin or clothing colors. So Im asking people not to draw any assumptions as to ethnicity or exactly what the people were wearing,” he said.
“It gives us a timeline as to when the fire started. It gives us a timeline of how the child was not inside the vehicle. It gives us now two people who were present when this car started on fire, so its extremely important to us,” Rinaldo said.
He also told the press conference that the two individuals seen fleeing the scene did not match the descriptions of any of the three missing; however he added that because the area was in complete darkness and the CCTV used infra-red, the ethnicity or clothing color of the "persons of interest" should not be concluded from the footage.
He said it is possible that there may be other surveillance footage of the white Pacifica traveling in the citys Riverside neighborhood, particularly in the areas of Tonawanda and Niagara streets.
Rinaldo asked those with surveillance systems in the area to review their footage dating back to 2:30 a.m. Monday, to see if they may have captured the vehicle on tape.
Rinaldo asked anyone with information about the people seen approaching the car in the videos to contact police by calling or texting the departments tip line, at 847-2255.
The missing Florida residents and the toddler were last seen Saturday near Orlando, Fla., and are believed to have arrived in Buffalo late Sunday night, according to police.
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Noelvin was found at about 8 a.m. Monday on Potomac Avenue, in good health. The toddler is in the custody of Erie County Child Protective Services.
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“We should be thankful the little boy is alive and safe,” Rinaldo said, but added that police are determined to arrest whomever caused the deaths of the people in the car.
The remains were found in the burned-out vehicle Monday behind Black Rock Mini Storage on Tonawanda Street.
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“We have positively confirmed that there were two bodies inside of that vehicle. We have not yet been able to identify whose remains those are,” Rinaldo said.
“I cant stress enough the vehicle was completely incinerated and the contents were nothing but ashes,” he said.