Car recovered in Cardenas kidnapping, no bodies inside

PATTERSON, Calif.

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The badly damaged Toyota Corolla recovered from the Delta-Mendota canal along with two other vehicles just before 6 p.m. was empty, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said.

The car belongs to 27-year-old Jose Rodriguez, who is suspected of kidnapping Juliani Cardenas, his ex-girlfriend's son, from the arms of the boy's grandmother in Patterson on Jan. 18.

Divers have been combing the canal since last week after receiving a tip that a car matching the one in which Rodriguez allegedly fled was seen heading into the water.

The car was found with sonar Friday morning in a tunnel about 50 feet below the surface. An underwater camera showed its license plate and confirmed the vehicle was the suspect's 2003 silver Corolla, Christianson said.

A single diver entered the water shortly after 4 p.m. to attach a line to the car so a tow truck could drag it from the canal. A backup diver was in the water to assist.

Authorities will continue to search the canal for the bodies in the event they floated downstream, Christianson said. He said there was no visible indication that Rodriguez had fled the scene.

Two of the car's windows were down when it was pulled from the canal, Christianson said.

During a briefing for reporters Friday afternoon, Christianson said he feared the worst.

"We're certainly saddened by the fact that we found the car even though we knew we would," he said. "As these days have progressed, we knew that the likelihood of bringing little Juliani home alive was diminishing exponentially."

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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