LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Las Vegas Metro police said investigators found the body of a toddler who was reported missing Sunday morning at Sunset Park.
Homicide Lt. Ray Spencer said the body of Daniel Theriot was located near Lake Mead National Recreation area early Monday morning.
The boy's 20-year-old mother, Cassie Smith, and her 40-year-old boyfriend, Joshua Oxford, were arrested. Spencer said they were booked on child abuse charges, although murder charges are pending.
"We do have an idea of how the child was killed. I will tell you that it is absolutely disturbing," Spencer said.
The mother originally called police Sunday around 9 a.m. to report the child missing at Sunset Park.
Spencer said Smith claimed she took the boy to feed the ducks, then she took a phone call and when she turned her attention back to the child, he was gone.
An extensive search for the child began in the park and surrounding areas.
Multiple law enforcement agencies responded including Las Vegas Metro police, Red Rock Search and Rescue, Clark County Park police, Child Protective Services, FBI Child Abduction and Rapid Deployment team and National Park Service.
At around 1 p.m., detectives began to doubt the mother's claims. As the search for the boy continued, police launched an additional criminal investigation.
Police continued to search overnight until they found the body of the boy near Lake Mead National Recreation Area Monday morning.
Spencer said the boy may have been killed about 12 hours prior to the mother's original emergency call.
After the discovery, Smith and Oxford were arrested. Child Protective Services took a 2-year-old boy that was also in their home.
Police said he's Smith's child and that the child displayed signs of physical abuse. Oxford is not related to any of the children.
“I’ve saw him a few times,” said Cookie, a neighbor who remembers Theriot. “Running around with the parents, like the other children do, you would never of thought it would be your neighbors.”
Inside the Kensington Suites on Bonanza, the conversations have turned solemn.
“A lot of horrific things were going through my head,” said Cookie. “Thinking how can someone do that to a child.”
Neighbors reflected on Daniel Theriot, a little boy who they say lived there before his body was found near Lake Mead. But what is really sticking to neighbors is what they said they remember seeing the last morning Daniel was reported missing.
Several neighbors recall seeing Oxford loading a box into a vehicle, they said along with him was Daniels youngest brother and mother.
“I thought they were going out to a picnic,” said one neighbor who asked to remain anonymous. “You know for the holiday.”
She said she didn’t pay it any mind, but realized Daniel wasn’t with them.
After police arrived, and questioned neighbors the box came up again.
“After they said what happened,” said the neighbor. “I said I wonder was that the kid in the box?”
“It looked like they were going to a picnic outing or something and it was kind of noticeable,” said Cookie. “I guess the way they were acting, and probably didn’t know how to get rid of it. So they just came on out with the box.”
Police believe Daniel was killed within 12 hours before he was reported missing.
While none of the neighbors know for certain what happened, they all said there are too many alternatives for stressed out parents to consider.
“Pick up the phone and say I can’t do this, I need some help,” said Cookie. ”That is what you’re supposed to do.”
SECOND CASE OF ITS KIND
This deadly discovery was made nearly two weeks after a similar case involving a report of missing 3-year-old Dejah Amara.
Her mother Aisha Thomas was later arrested after the girl's body was found in a duffel bag inside their home in northeast Las Vegas.
Spencer stressed to parents to seek help if they are facing difficulties in raising their children.