CRIME

Mystery Surrounds Death Of 3-Year-Old New Jersey Boy

Prosecutor's office says medical examiner found no clear cause of death.

The tightknit community of Haddon Township, New Jersey, was shaken Tuesday, when a missing 3-year-old boy was found dead in a wooded area not far from his home.

Now, in the day following Brendan Link Creato's death, the details remain a mystery.

An autopsy completed on the boy Tuesday evening yielded no results, according to Andy McNeil of the Camden County prosecutor's office.

"The cause and manner were not determined … [and] the investigation is ongoing," McNeil told The Huffington Post.

Authorities must now await the results of toxicology and additional testing to determine how Brendan died. Contacted by The Huffington Post, a spokeswoman for the regional medical examiner's office declined to comment on a timeline for that testing, saying, "We have direction not to talk to media."

It was at about 9 a.m. Tuesday that a police dog discovered Brendan's lifeless body in a wooded area of Cooper River Park. The 346-acre park reaches across the borders of four New Jersey townships -- Pennsauken, Cherry Hill, Collingswood and Haddon.

Police were initially treating the area as a crime scene, but whether the child's death is considered suspicious is still unknown.

"Everybody definitely wants to hear some answers because, obviously, everyone wants to know if there's some crazy psychopath on the loose," Jeff Baker of Oaklyn, New Jersey, told WPVI-TV.

Answers, as well as many of the details surrounding the child's disappearance, remain elusive.

Authorities said Brendan's grandmother dropped him off at the Cooper Street apartment of his father, D.J. Creato, around 9:30 p.m. Monday. Creato reported his son missing roughly three hours before his body was found.

"I just woke up and my 3-year-old's missing," Creato told the dispatcher, according to a recording of the 911 call obtained by Philly.com.

Asked by the dispatcher if he had any additional details, Creato replied, "No. I just woke up and he wasn't in my apartment. I don't know if he wandered out or what happened. I don't know where he is. The door was locked, I guess he unlocked it and left."

Authorities used a reverse 911 call to alert area residents to Brendan's disappearance. The call stated the child was last seen wearing pajamas.

The park where police ultimately found Brendan is located about a half-mile from his father's residence, auhorities said. The road from the apartment building to the park runs through a suburban neighborhood with large homes.

The park itself is full of dangers, including stairs leading to a small concrete landing that drops off into the water of a branch of the Cooper River.

Authorities have reportedly questioned Creato about his son's disappearance, but investigators have yet to reveal what, if anything, they learned.

Karri Anthony, a friend of the boy's mother's family, said Creato and the child's mother, Samantha Denoto, live in separate homes.

"A stranger and an evil person came in and did this," Bernadette Ferraro, who said her son is Brendan's godfather, told Philly.com.

Tributes were paid to the child during a Tuesday night candlelight vigil, which was reportedly attended by more than 100 family members, friends and neighbors.

"He loved pirates and he loved cats and dogs," family friend Donna Duca told WLS-TV. "He was going to be the Hulk for Halloween. He had his costume ready. He was a joy."

Denoto released a statement on her son's death on behalf of her family.

"We are heartbroken by the loss of our beautiful boy Brendan Creato," she said. "Along with the Creato family, who also lost a son and grandson, we are grieving and tremendously saddened."

Denoto said she does not have "any answers about what occurred" and does not plan to make any additional statements.

"We request that we be provided with privacy during this very difficult time," she said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, a GoFund Me campaign has raised more than $10,000 to help pay for Brendan's burial expenses.

Authorities are asking anyone with information about Brendan Creato's death to contact the Camden County Prosecutor's Office at 856-225-8561 or the Haddon Township Police Department at 856-833-6208.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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