Couple accused of murdering 4-year-old boy pleads not guilty

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — The couple accused of murdering 4-year-old Eliazar Ruiz pleaded not guilty in court Thursday.

Joanne Vega, 31, and Romaine Tolbert, 36, were indicted on Jan. 14, and they failed to appear in court for their arraignments. They were arrested last month by the U.S. Marshals in Adrian, Michigan.

A judge ordred them remanded without bond Thursday.

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.

For months, the boy’s identity was not known.

He wasn’t identified until his mother saw a sketch on FOX 8 that was drawn 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.

Records from Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office stated the victim tested positive for several illegal drugs, including fentanyl, and suffered two arm fractures.

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