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Young boy found murdered along Nevada hiking trail remains unidentified

A ‘panicked mother’ thought the boy was her 8-year-old son, prompting a search for the boy’s father and half-brother earlier Saturday.

Las Vegas police are still trying to identify a young boy found dead from an “obvious homicide” near a hiking trail just hours after announcing that they had identified him and were looking for his father and half-brother.

The announcement caused a flurry of activity online as police released photographs of the 11-year-old half-brother, the father, and truck they were believed to be traveling in. But the search ended Saturday afternoon when all three — the 11-year-old, the father, and the 8-year-old police thought they’d identified — were located in Utah.

A group of hikers found the still unidentified murder victim in a forested area near Mountain Springs, between Las Vegas and Pahrump along the Nevada-California state line, early Friday morning, as CrimeOnline previously reported. Citing the ongoing investigation, police declined to describe the nature of his injuries or how he died.

Investigators released a sketch artist’s drawing of the boy later on Friday and said he was about 10 years old, Hispanic, 4 feet 11 inches tall, and 123 pounds. Las Vegas Police Lt Ray Spencer asked for help in identifying the child “so we can begin the key points of this investigation.”

During a Saturday afternoon news conference, Spencer said that detectives received overnight “a phone call from a panicked mother who was confident the photograph [of the sketch] she saw on TV was her son.” Detectives and the Clark County coroner met with the mother and showed her photographs from the autopsy.

“The mother positively identified that child as being her son, the 8-year-old child,” Spencer said. Another family member also viewed the photographs and agreed that it was the 8-year-old. Later, he said, the mother of an 11-year-old — the half brother of the 8-year-old — told police that she, too, believed the sketch showed her son’s half brother and that she had not seen or heard from her son or his father in the last 24 hours.

With that information in hand, Spencer said, police announced Saturday morning they’d identified the murder victim and released photos of his half brother and father. Not long after, police “got information they were spotted in Utah,” Spencer said. With the assistance of Utah authorities, the father and the 11-year-old boy were found safe — along with the 8-year-old half brother. Las Vegas authorities spoke with the three of them via Facetime to confirm.

As a result, Spencer said, “We are still in the situation right now where we have not identified the child that was found in Mountain Springs.”

While social media posts had indicated that was true for a few hours before the Saturday afternoon news confernece, Spencer said police delayed making the announcement until they had spoken with the father, who was in an area without cell phone service when Utah authorities first contacted him. 

“There is a very, very close resemblance when you look at the photographs” Spencer said when asked how investigators and the mother could have made this mistake. ” … I’ll just leave it at that.”

“We’re very happy the mother was able to get the news that her 8-year-old child was found alive and the 11-year-old was found unharmed,” he said.

Spencer added that the investigation had not stopped when the mistaken identification was made and that detectives have been “working around the clock” following up on tips. He also said that detectives were working on an “updated sketch and digitally enhanced photograph” they hoped to have available on Sunday.

To report information about the child, call the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department at 702-828-3521 or homicide@lvmpd.com. Anonymous tips can be sent to Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555 or online at crimestoppersofnv.com.

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[Featured Image: Sketch artist rendering of boy found dead Friday near Las Vegas/Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department]