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HADDON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — A 3-year-old boy who was reported missing Tuesday was found dead three hours later in woods about a half-mile from his home, authorities said.

A family member reported Brendan Link Creato missing at 6 a.m. from a small apartment building in Haddon Township, said Andy McNeil, spokesman with the Camden County prosecutor’s office. His body was found at around 9 a.m. by a police dog in Cooper River Park.

The cause of death remains under investigation, and further details have not been disclosed. Authorities are awaiting the results of an autopsy.

Karri Anthony, a friend of the boy’s mother’s family, said Brendan had been staying at his father’s home at the time. His mother lives elsewhere, she said.

The mother, Samantha Denoto, released a statement Tuesday evening on her son’s death.

“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.”

She thanked the people who searched for Brendan and those who gathered at a vigil in his memory. About 100 people attended it, praying and singing.

The road from Brendan’s home to the park runs through a suburban neighborhood with big lots and 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. By midday, the park was no longer considered a crime scene, though the area around the boy’s home was still cordoned off.

After Brendan was reported missing, police notified nearby residents using a reverse 911 call that described him as wearing pajamas.


This story has been corrected to show that the boy’s first name is Brendan.