Published Monday, Sept. 3, 2018 | 10:13 a.m.
Updated Monday, Sept. 3, 2018 | 2:07 p.m.
Within four hours after Cassie Smith called 911 to report her 3-year-old son had vanished at Sunset Park on Sunday, her account began to unravel, according to Metro Police.
Investigators this morning accused Daniel Theriot’s 20-year-old mother, and her boyfriend, 40-year-old Joshua Oxford, in his killing, Lt. Ray Spencer said. His tiny body was found in a remote location within Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
About 1 p.m. Sunday, investigators began to cast doubts on Smith's story, Spencer said. They wondered if Daniel, a blue-eyed, blond-hair boy — who wore a wide smile and a pirate outfit in a photo distributed by Metro in their massive search — was ever at Sunset Park to begin with.
Officers wondered why the woman would drive about 15 miles with her child to feed the ducks at that park when they could have simply walked from their home to Lorenzi Park to do the same, Lt. Spencer said.
Officers couldn’t find anyone at Sunset Park who had seen Smith with a boy, or who had witnessed a mother desperately searching for her child, Spencer said.
Spencer did not provide many details on how Daniel died or was found, but “it’s absolutely disturbing on how the child, we think, was killed,” he said, noting there was “nothing accidental” about it. He died within 12 hours before he was reported missing
Police also discovered Daniel’s 2-year-old sibling had suffered abuse, allegedly at the hands of the suspects. During the investigation, officials made contact with Oxford, who was supervising Smith's other son. That boy was taken into custody by Child Protective Services and examined at Sunrise Hospital, where medical staff discovered signs of abuse, police said.
Metro homicide detectives for the second time in a week and a half have found themselves investigating slayings of 3-year-old children initially reported missing by their parents.
On Aug. 23, Aisha Thomas called 911 to say that one of her four children who had accompanied her to an east valley convenience store had vanished.
In reality, Thomas only had three of her children; Dejah Hunt’ body was in a duffel bag inside a closet in the family’s apartment, police said.
Thomas told police she found her daughter dead after smacking her face when the girl peed her pants.
“Having children is stressful, Spencer said. “Having toddlers is stressful; having a baby is stressful. If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t care for your child, you can take your child to a fire station, you can take your child to a hospital,” he added, “but this is absolutely, it’s hard to deal with.”