Buffalo Police are relying on the city's growing network of private surveillance cameras to solve a horrific crime, the details of which remain unclear.
Police are trying to solve what is apparently a murder involving a toddler left on a porch, a burned-out vehicle with two bodies inside, at least one missing person and an overriding mystery about what happened.
As forensic anthropologists try to identify the bodies charred in a burning car on Tonawanda Steet in Black Rock early Monday morning, police on Thursday showed reporters surveillance camera footage that appears to show two central figures and the toddler. The car is known to be one rented in Orlando, FL by the toddler's mother and father. The child, named Noelvin, was found hours later on the porch of a residence about a mile away on Potomac Avenue.
One video, from just before 3 a.m. Monday, shows two adults entering the area near where the burned vehicle was found. Another shows them leaving the scene with the toddler. They appear to be carrying gas cans. They have been deemed persons of interest in the investigation.
"This is a horrific, horrific crime. I guess we should be thankful that the little boy is alive and safe. There could have had other tragic outcomes. But, as you can see, he's front and center for us. We want to catch the people responsible for this and we will not stop until we do so," Capt. Jeff Rinaldo said.
Rinaldo said it's not clear if the bodies in the car are those of the boy's parents and no one knows where a third adult is, the friend of the parents with whom they left Orlando heading to Western New York.
The missing parents are Nicole Marie Merced Plaud, 24, and Miguel Anthony Valentin-Colon, 31, of the Orlando area. Dhamyl Mirella Roman-Audiffred, 29, who was said to be a friend of the couple, is also missing.
The shadowy surveillance footage is the product of the city's increasing efforts to find private surveillance cameras and persuade citizens to register with police so the images can be used. Erie County District Attorney John Flynn is a strong proponent of the private cameras and said Thursday his staff has been working on the crime from the beginning.
"We continue to work with the Buffalo Police Department on this and, obviously, my assistant district attorneys, along with the homicide detectives at BPD, are working on this case non-stop and continue to work on this case until we figure out what happened here," Flynn said.
Technologically, the surveillance camera images are not clear since they were shot in the middle of the night using infrared lights. Rinaldo said one should not draw certain conclusions about the individuals from the images because of the limitations.
WBFO’s Omar Fetouh contributed to this report.