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With search for missing Florida baby all but over, family remains hopeful

It’s been two weeks since Baby Andrew disappeared from sight on the same day that most of his immediate family was brutally murdered.
Andrew Caballeiro, left, remains missing after he was taken by his father Ernesto Caballeiro, according to Miami-Dade police. Three women were found dead in the baby's home in southwest Miami-Dade County home. The father was found dead in Pasco County.
Andrew Caballeiro, left, remains missing after he was taken by his father Ernesto Caballeiro, according to Miami-Dade police. Three women were found dead in the baby's home in southwest Miami-Dade County home. The father was found dead in Pasco County. [ Florida Department of Law Enforcement ]
Published Feb. 12, 2020

Miami Herald (TNS)

MIAMI — The dogs have stopped trying to pick up scents. Police are no longer turning over logs in wooded areas or dragging canals. The helicopter search lights have gone dark.

Two weeks after Baby Andrew disappeared from sight on the same day that most of his immediate family was brutally murdered, there remains no sign of the 3-week-old infant and police have all but stopped what was once a massive manhunt.

It doesn’t mean the search for the child is over. It just means that in all likelihood Baby Andrew will never be found unless someone knows something and comes forward.

Related: Miami triple-murder suspect found dead in Pasco County. But where is baby Andrew?

“Unless something comes in that leads them (detectives) in another direction, it (any new clue) has be lead driven. Right now we’re not looking anywhere,” said Miami-Dade Detective Alvaro Zabaleta. “Of course we’re hoping that somebody does have him and the reason he doesn’t come forward is fear.”

The search for Baby Andrew began almost as soon as police discovered the grisly scene at Ernesto Caballeiro’s South Miami-Dade County home on Jan. 28. Police were called there by a frantic relative who couldn’t get in contact with the family. Inside the home Miami-Dade police found the bodies of Andrew’s mother Arlety Garcia-Valdes, 40, his grandmother Isabela Valdes, 60, and his great-grandmother Lina Gonzalez, 84.

The three had been shot and killed with a high-powered rifle. Baby Andrew, then only a little over a week old, was missing. Video from a surveillance camera at the home showed Caballeiro, the child’s father, leaving the home on Southwest 187th Avenue with Baby Andrew.

A frantic statewide search began.

Related: FBI joins search for missing baby whose father was found dead in Pasco County

Electronic billboards with the picture of the child and his father — which remain to this day — appeared on major highways like I-595, Florida’s Turnpike and State Road 112. Streets around the South Dade home were blocked off from the public. Police and hound dogs searched fields and canals were dredged.

A day later, Andrew’s father was found shot dead in the woods with what police believe was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was about 50 yards from where he parked the family’s sought-after white van on the side of a road in Pasco County. It was about three miles from I-75.

But there was no sign of Andrew.

A thorough search of the area and the van that was an integral part of an Amber Alert for the child offered no clues about the infant’s whereabouts. There was no car seat and a pacifier found inside the vehicle had none of the baby’s DNA.

As the search grew more desperate family members told of how Caballeiro and Andrew’s mother had a spotty relationship and were separated before the child was born.

Now, three weeks after Andrew’s family members were found murdered and with the physical search all-but dead, the child’s family still clings to hope that Andrew will be found.

“I do keep hope that he will appear alive,” said Reina Valdes, Andrew’s great-aunt. “The last thing one loses is hope. But the (police) have told us there is a possibility that the child will not appear. I keep hoping that he will appear.”