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Neighbors remember three boys



Published: Mon, June 27, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Residents left a makeshift memorial on a street corner.

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) -- As authorities began investigating why police failed to search a car trunk where three missing boys were found dead, members of their tight-knit neighborhood gathered to mourn the tragedy.

The boys -- ages 5, 6 and 11 -- were missing for two days before one of their fathers found them in the trunk of a car that officers had looked through. Officials said the boys had suffocated after climbing into the trunk on their own.

"We feel like it's our kids," said Sara Mendez, 50. "Now people are going to take more care of their kids because this happened. We're going to learn something from this."

Residents left a makeshift memorial of balloons, stuffed animals and candles on a street corner and started collecting money for the families of Daniel Agosto, 5, Jesstin Pagan, 6, and Anibal Cruz, 11.

In front of the gray, stucco duplex where Cruz lived, someone placed three empty chairs on the sidewalk.

Agosto's father collapsed in grief next to one of the memorials Saturday.

The search

Dozens of officials had searched for the boys, using helicopters, a bloodhound and divers who searched the Delaware River. But the children ultimately were found Friday in a car that police had looked through when the boys were first reported missing.

Police Chief Edwin Figueroa said if any law enforcement officials broke department rules in the search they would be disciplined. Police and prosecutors were expected to issue a report within 30 days on the handling of the search.

Death certificates did not give a time of death for the boys. Officials said a full autopsy report may include an estimate.

One of the boys had played before in the car, which was owned by Anibal's maternal grandmother. It had been sitting for about three weeks in a shaded, weedy corner of the Cruz family's yard.

The hydraulic plunger that keeps the trunk from closing was not working, so the lid was able to swing close and lock as soon as the boys stopped propping it up, Camden County Prosecutor Vincent P. Sarubbi said.



Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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