A water department worker spotted Juliani Cardenas' body floating in the Delta-Mendota Canal, said Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson. The body was found about 30 miles downstream from where a vehicle belonging to the man suspected of kidnapping Juliani was recovered last week.
The worker called 911 around 7:30 a.m.
"From the very beginning, we wanted to find little Juliani alive. That was our goal," Christianson said. But as the days progressed, "we just knew that wouldn't happen."
Investigators said Juliani was snatched from his home in Patterson on Jan. 18 by his mother's ex-boyfriend, Jose Rodriguez, 27. Search teams began combing the canal following a tip that a car matching the description of Rodriguez's silver Toyota Corolla was seen going into the water.
Rodriguez's Corolla was pulled from the bottom of the canal Friday, with no signs of the boy or suspect inside.
Christianson said a homicide warrant has been issued for Rodriguez, but investigators believe the man's body also will be found in the canal. There was no evidence that Rodriguez fled the scene after the car went into the water, he said.
Rodriguez is accused of snatching Juliani from the arms of the boy's grandmother. Juliani's mother, Tabitha Cardenas, reportedly ended her relationship with Rodriguez several months ago, and he is the father of her unborn child.
Associated Press writer Terry Collins in San Francisco also contributed to this report.