SELLERSBURG, Ind. — The death of a little boy in southern Indiana garnered national attention after police revealed his body was found inside a suitcase.
The weekend discovery in Washington County has baffled local investigators, who’ve set up a tip line and released disturbing new details.
Here’s what we know so far.
How was the boy found?
According to Sgt. Carey Huls with Indiana State Police, a mushroom hunter found the boy’s body Saturday night near a heavily wooded area in Washington County.
The location was about 80 feet from a rural road. The mushroom hunter called 911, leading to the current investigation.
Huls revealed Tuesday that the boy was found inside a suitcase.
What are police saying about the suitcase?
The suitcase has prominent Las Vegas logos wrapped around it. Investigators said it appeared to be in good condition.
“The child was found inside a suitcase that was sealed. He did not put himself there and wind up approximately 80 feet off the road in a wooded area by himself,” Huls said.
Huls said police initially withheld information about the suitcase to protect the investigation.
“There’s information, obviously, that’s we’ve known from the very get-go, the beginning. You relay what can we say at this time, what we can’t—we want the validity of the investigation to stay intact and to not do anything that’s going to alter the investigation,” Huls said. “We feel comfortable at this time letting the public know [about the suitcase].”
Police released an image of the suitcase in hopes of getting more tips.
“It’s a very distinct suitcase,” Huls said. “We’re hoping that will jog somebody’s memory to say, ‘Hey, I’ve seen that suitcase before.’”
What do we know about the boy?
Huls said the victim is approximately 5 years old. He’s described as a Black male who’s about 4 feet tall with a slim build and short hair. Police had previously said they believed the boy was between the ages of 5 and 8, but they’re now confident he is around 5 years old.
Investigators are convinced he was killed within the last week.
“We still believe the death occurred within the past week,” Huls said. “The child was in good condition, as far as the circumstances go. Based on the dental condition, the teeth were clean, in good shape. [There’s] nothing we can go off there to identify, but he appeared well cared for.”
The autopsy was completed Tuesday. Huls said there was no definitive answer for the cause of death. Investigators are now waiting for toxicology results, which can take up to six weeks.
Does the boy’s description fit an established case involving a missing child?
So far, police said the boy doesn’t appear to be a match for any known case involving a missing child. They believe they’re trying to identify a child who hasn’t yet been reported missing.
“All those documented missing children cases you see on websites, we’re aware of them,” Huls said. “We tie into those databases, too. We’re talking with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. All those types of things—we have that information in front of us. It’s the information of that child who’s not on that list that we’re looking for.”
Huls said if there is a case involving a missing child that has even a remotely close match, they’re confident they already have that information and don’t need additional tips in those cases.
What’s the tip line?
“To end up here, I just don’t think you pick that at random. Why there?” said Doug Kouns with Veracity IIR.
Former FBI agent Doug Kouns, who is not connected to the case, said because the body was found in such a remote wooded area, investigators will likely try to figure out why that location would’ve been used to dispose of the body.
“It’s a very rural area. It’s the end of a dead end street. Purely speculation on my part, but I would think it’s someone familiar with the area,” said Kouns.
Of course until the victim is identified, it will be hard for investigators to figure out who is responsible for the death.
“You’re kind of feeling around in the dark on something like this at first,” said Kouns. “It’s a tough one. I wish them the best of luck.”
Indiana State Police set up a dedicated national tip line at 1-888-437-6432 in hopes of generating leads about the case.