When Child Protective Services was asked to investigate the well-being of a 6 year old in Long Island, New York, officials expected a routine child welfare visit. Instead, questions led to the discovery of the body of a 17-month-old boy; a boy who was never reported dead or missing.
Officials became concerned when they visited the home and the family could not account for the whereabouts of a child born in 2009. Upon further investigation, police uncovered Justin’s little body in a 3-foot grave in the backyard of his family’s neatly kept home. The child allegedly died at 17 months of age, but the death was never reported. Justin’s mother, Heather Kowalczik, originally told officials that the child was with relatives upstate. When her story didn’t check out, she recanted, stating that he died in 2010.
Heather Kowalczik has two other children, ages 6 and 9, with her boyfriend Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez is not the father of the deceased child. Neither adult has reported the cause of Justin’s death, or why the family kept it a secret.
“It is absolutely a suspicious death and it is being investigated as such,” said State Police Major Patrick Regan. “We don’t have a cause of death, and to our knowledge, there was never a report made of the child being missing.”
Rodriguez disappeared on Friday with his 9-year-old son, after allegedly hearing of the investigation. An Amber Alert was issued, then quickly canceled when the pair was found. Officials report that Kowalczik and Rodriguez are “no longer cooperating with authorities.”
The two remaining children are in protective custody. A medical examiner is performing an autopsy on Justin’s remains. He would have been three years old.
The discovery has shocked the neighborhood. Kowalczik and Rodriguez lived in a rented house, and the landlord is now considering selling. “I don’t even want to come back here,” the landlord told Fox News. Michelle Peavey, whose own children played with Justin’s siblings, thought that the couple only had two children. “It’s shocking. Hard to believe.” Neighbor Tekiera McCormack speaks in Kowalczik’s defense: “I can’t see this. This is crazy. She was a good mother. Those kids loved her.”
Police reports that the body was most likely buried right around the time the family moved into the home.