Taylen Mosley, the 2-year-old boy who had been missing since his mother’s body was discovered in her apartment Thursday, was found dead on Friday, St. Petersburg Police chief Anthony Holloway said.
Holloway said an officer found the boy in the clutches of an alligator’s mouth near Dell Holmes Park in St. Petersburg. The officer fired at the alligator and the animal dropped the boy.
Holloway said Taylen’s father, Thomas Mosley, 21, will be arrested on two charges of first-degree murder in connection with Taylen’s death and the killing of the boy’s mother, Pashun Jeffery, 20.
Holloway said Thomas Mosley stabbed Jeffery multiple times, then went to the hospital Wednesday night with cuts on his arms and hands. He was still at the hospital Friday night, and police plan to arrest him after his discharge, Holloway said.
Taylen’s body was found around Lake Maggiore, which is more than 13 miles from the apartment where his mother was killed. The cause of Taylen’s death was still under investigation Friday pending an autopsy by the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner’s Office.
At a news conference Friday night, Holloway said the heartbreaking end comes with strong emotions for officers who worked long hours investigating the case. The investigation had led officers to search around Dell Holmes Park, 2741 22nd Street S, and in Lake Maggiore. The alligator that had the boy’s body in its mouth was killed, Holloway said.
“It’s very tough for these men and women,” Holloway said. “We didn’t want to find him this way.”
The news comes after a search that lasted more than 24 hours. On Friday afternoon, while the search pressed on, Taylen’s family asked for the public’s help at a news conference they held with the chief. The boy had celebrated his second birthday just 19 days prior.
His grandmother, Lakita Denson, pleaded through tears: She had already lost her daughter, who she had FaceTimed with every morning, and she desperately wanted to find Taylen.
The family held up large photos of Taylen and his mother. Jeffery’s great aunt, Theo Brickhouse-Sails, held her arm around Denson to support her.
Taylen’s family nicknamed him “Tay-Tay” and “Glam.” He loved PB&J sandwiches but hated grits. He loved calling his mother every day when she had breaks from work at her job at CVS.
“Taylen is a beautiful little boy,” Brickhouse-Sails said. “Taylen lost his mommy.”
Jeffery, 20, was found dead in her unit at Lincoln Shores Apartments, 11601 Fourth St. N, about 2:30 p.m. Thursday, St. Petersburg police said. Taylen could not be found, prompting authorities to issue an Amber Alert that classified the boy as a “kidnapped child.”
Police on Friday morning publicly named Thomas Mosley as a “person of interest” in Jeffery’s death.
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Thomas Mosley refused to speak with detectives, Holloway said. Efforts by the Tampa Bay Times to reach him by phone Friday were unsuccessful.
Holloway said Taylen and his mother were last seen about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. At about 8:30 that night, a neighbor heard a noise from Jeffery’s apartment, but a St. Petersburg police spokesperson said Thursday that the noise wasn’t “memorable” and the neighbor did not call police.
Between 9 and 9:15 Wednesday night, Thomas Mosley arrived at his mother’s home, Holloway said. Police did not state how far that is from Jeffery’s apartment. That day was also Thomas Mosley’s 21st birthday.
The family first became worried when Denson made her daily FaceTime call Thursday morning and no one picked up. Later that day, a family member called the property manager at the Lincoln Shores apartment to check on Jeffery and her son.
Jeffery had only lived at the apartment for about a month, her family said.
The door was locked, Holloway said, but the apartment staff member who went in found a “very violent crime scene.”
The search for the boy included using bloodhounds in the woods around the apartment. Dive teams searched nearby ponds, too. Officials used drones to check the area from above.
St. Petersburg police asked for volunteers to help with the search on Saturday, but that was called off after the terrible discovery later on Friday.
Times staff writers Natalie Weber and Tony Marrero contributed to this report.