Riverside Fire Chief Spencer Kimura confirmed last week that it was two Riverside firefighters who recovered the body of a toddler from the Des Plaines River in North Riverside on May 14.
The toddler, whose identity remains unconfirmed, is believed to be a Maywood boy who has been missing since April 15.
The body reportedly was discovered by Westchester resident Robert Larson, who had been searching the river for weeks to locate 1-year-old Bryeon Hunter, who was allegedly beaten to death by his mother and her boyfriend and then thrown into the river near Lake Street in Maywood.
Initially, the boy’s mother, Lakeshia Baker, 22, and her boyfriend, Michael Scott, 21, told police Bryeon had been kidnapped. Baker later reportedly admitted that she and Scott had beaten the toddler to death, placed his body into a backpack and threw it into the Des Plaines River.
Both Baker and Scott have been charged with murder and are being held at Cook County Jail.
Larson was paddling a kayak down the Des Plaines in the vicinity of the McCormick Woods, about 300 yards north of 31st Street when he discovered the body trapped by a large pile of driftwood on the west bank of the river.
He contacted Brookfield police at about 3:15 p.m., telling the dispatcher he was in a kayak and could see a Brookfield Zoo sign near a bridge. Brookfield police located Larson north of 31st Street and notified North Riverside police.
By about 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, police had cordoned off the area while emergency personnel recovered the body.
According to Kimura, firefighters decided against using boats to directly recover the body, since they believed the wakes from the vessels might dislodge the body. Instead boats were positioned downstream while the two Riverside firefighters waded into the river, which was about three-and-a-half feet deep, to recover the body.
“They were able to retrieve the body, put it into the body bag and turn it over to the [Cook County] sheriffs,” said Kimura.
Afterward, a crime scene photographer in a boat snapped pictures in the vicinity north and south of the recovery site. Police wrapped up their operations at about 5:30 p.m.
The child’s body was taken to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy and positive identification.
However, positive identification was not possible without DNA testing. According to Maywood Police Chief Tim Curry, DNA samples from the child as well as from Baker and Baker’s mother have been turned over to the Illinois State Police crime lab.
Curry said he was not sure how long it might take to obtain results from the testing.
“We don’t know what the time frame is, so we’re sitting back patiently waiting for the results to come in,” said Curry.