Authorities search for couple accused in murder of 4-year-old boy

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CLEVELAND– Law enforcement officials in Cuyahoga County are looking for a couple accused in the death of 4-year-old Eliazar Ruiz.

Joanne Vega, 31, and Romaine Tolbert, 36, were indicted on Jan. 14 and they failed to appear in court for their arraignments.

Joanne Vega and Romaine Tolbert (Photos courtesy: Crime Stoppers of Cuyahoga County)

Landscapers found remains at a house on Longmead Avenue near West 130th Street in Cleveland on Sept. 20, 2017. The skeleton was covered in bags in the backyard. The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office said the victim tested positive for several illegal drugs, including fentanyl, and suffered two arm fractures.

He wasn’t identified until his mother saw a sketch by Dr. Linda Spurlock, a forensic facial reconstruction artist and an assistant professor of anthropology at Kent State University.

That’s when police learned the mother went to prison in 2017 and left Eliazar with Vega, his godmother. DNA confirmed his identity.

Vega and Tolbert are charged with murder, felonious assault, permitting child abuse, involuntary manslaughter, endangering children, offenses against a human corpse, tampering with evidence and kidnapping.

The U.S. Marshals Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force is involved in the search. Investigators said it is believed the couple is still in the Cleveland area.

There is a $2,500 reward for information leading to their arrest. Anyone with tips should call the U.S. Marshals Service at 1-866-4-WANTED or Crime Stoppers of Cuyahoga County at 216-252-7463.

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