A year later, ‘caretakers’ are connected to death of beautiful little boy, found stuffed inside trash bag & discarded behind vacant house: Report

A godmother and her husband have been charged in connection with the death of a young Ohio boy, a little over a year after his remains were found buried behind a vacant residence in Cleveland.

ABC reports that 31-year-old Joanne Vega and 36-year-old Romaine Tolbert are charged with numerous felonies in connection with the death of 4-year-old Eliazar Ruiz.

On September 20, 2017, a tree pruner working at an empty home off of 12900 block of Longmead Avenue in Cleveland discovered skeletal remains inside a trash bag, placed in the backyard of the residence, hidden under shrubs. The remains were later matched to the little boy.

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According to Cuyahoga County court records, both suspects are at large. Warrants for their arrests were taken out on January 15.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Ashley Makuhan, 27, the boy’s mother, was incarcerated in February 2017 for a parole violation stemming from a drug conviction. Makuhan allowed “family friends” to take care of her son while behind bars. Eliazar’s grandmother reportedly checked on the boy numerous times and everything seemed to be fine at first. Authorities later identified the family friends as Vega and Tolbert.

“There was no sign that anything was wrong,” the child’s cousin, Nikki Clark, previously said. “That’s what makes all of this so confusing…..I just don’t understand why someone would discard a child like that.”

According to preliminary autopsy reports, Eliazar had numerous drugs in his system,”including fentanyl,” FOX reports. An autopsy report indicated he also had two fractured arms. His death was ruled a homicide.

Joanne Vega and Romaine Tolbert [Police Handout]
When authorities found the remains, they initially had no idea they discovered Eliazar. Investigators helped piece together his identity in 2017 via a composite sketch done by L. Spurlock for the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner.

Mahukan saw the sketch while incarcerated and said it greatly resembled her son. She worked with detectives in identifying the boy by submitting to a DNA test. It was a match.

Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson noted that the boy had been dead for several months before he was discovered. Gilson estimated that the little boy died at some point between late spring to early summer of 2017.


Cleveland police released a composite sketch in 2017, prior to identifying Eliazar Ruiz  [Photo: L. Spurlock/Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner]
It’s unclear why Eliazar’s grandmother, Dawn Battle, didn’t have custody, but she said she wanted to file a missing persons report in June 2017, but without custody, she wasn’t allowed to. She reported at the time that she thought the caregivers may have taken the boy out of state.

Last year, Makuhan told NBC she hoped justice for her son came quickly. She indicated she left her son with a woman who she considered a “good mother” and close friend, and had no idea why the woman hurt her son.

“It’s a rough decision and I’m going to have to live with that for the rest of my life. I trusted her. She’s always been a good mother, I would’ve never picked her for my son if I would’ve ever thought that something like this would happen.”

Vega and Romaine are facing charges of murder, tampering with evidence, kidnapping, gross abuse of a corpse, child endangerment, and child abuse. They’re scheduled for arraignment on January 29.

[Feature Photo: Eliazar Ruiz/Family Handout]