Cassie Smith, mother to 3-year-old Daniel Theriot, was arrested on suspicion of foul play relating to the death of Theriot, whose body was found near Lake Mead on Monday afternoon.
The toddler’s body was found in a remote area near Lake Mead National Recreation Area, a day after his mother reported him missing from Sunset Park.
Smith and her 40-year-old boyfriend, Joshua Oxford, were both arrested in connection to the case. They were booked on child abuse charges, although murder charges are pending.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Smith Claims She Answered a Phone Call While Her Son Was Feeding Ducks & When She Turned Around He Was Gone
Smith called police Sunday around 9 a.m. to report the child missing at Sunset Park. Spencer said Smith claimed that she took the boy to feed the ducks, but she turned her back on the boy to answer a phone call and when she turned back around he was gone.
An extensive search for the child began in the park and surrounding areas. Multiple law enforcement agencies responded including Las Vegas Metro police, Red Rock Search and Rescue, Clark County Park police, Child Protective Services, FBI Child Abduction and Rapid Deployment team and National Park Service, according to Fox.
However, detectives began to doubt the mother’s claims within hours of Smith’s report. As the search for the boy continued, police launched an additional criminal investigation.
2. Theriot’s Body Was Discovered Monday Morning & His Cause of Death Was Called “Absolutely Disturbing” By Authorities
Police continued to search overnight, and eventually found the boy near Lake Mead National Recreation Area early Monday morning.
Homicide Lt. Ray Spencer said the toddler may have been killed about 12 hours prior to the mother’s original emergency call. Details of his death have not been publicly released as of Tuesday, but Spencer said his death was “disturbing.”
“We do have an idea of how the child was killed. I will tell you that it is absolutely disturbing,” Spencer said.
Smith and Oxford were arrested shortly after his body was discovered and booked on charges of child abuse. According to Fox, another child was found in Oxford’s care and placed in protective custody after the 2-year-old was taken to Sunrise Hospital, where staff found signs of physical abuse. Police said that the other child is Smith’s, and that the child displayed signs of physical abuse. Oxford is not related to any of the children.
3. Neighbors Remember Seeing Smith Leaving Sunday Morning With a White Box, Now Believed to Be Carrying Theriot’s Body
According to Fox, who spoke with several of Smith’s neighbors, Smith was seen Sunday morning loading a white box into her vehicle, with only her youngest son with her.
“I thought they were going out to a picnic,” said one neighbor who asked to remain anonymous. “You know for the holiday.”
She said she didn’t pay it any mind, but realized Daniel wasn’t with them. “After they said what happened,” said the neighbor. “I said I wonder was that the kid in the box?”
“It looked like they were going to a picnic outing or something and it was kind of noticeable,” another neighbor told Fox. “I guess the way they were acting, and probably didn’t know how to get rid of it. So they just came on out with the box.”
“She definitely wasn’t the most responsible parent, but you never see nothing like that coming,” said Conrad Southerland, another neighbor who lives in the complex. “I’m glad they both got arrested, and I hope they both rot in hell for what they did.”
4. Theriot’s Death Comes Less Than Two Weeks After The Body of Another 3-Year-Old Was Found in a Duffle Bag in Las Vegas
The discover of Theriot’s body comes a little less than two weeks after the body of another child of the same age was found dead in a duffel bag in Las Vegas. Yvonne Thomas, 29, is accused of killing the little girl and is in custody, The Associated Press reports.
Thomas claimed she was walking with her four children and was on the phone when one of her daughter, Dejah Hunt, went missing.
The department conducted a second search when the mother’s story began to show inconsistencies. The officers then noticed a heavy duffle bag inside the master bedroom’s closet that emitted “a mildew smell.”
Spencer said the officers found garbage bags when they opened the duffle bag, and found the body of a small child who they believed was the missing 3-year-old. Thomas was arrested immediately, and the rest of her children placed in protective custody.
Thomas admitted to striking her daughter in the head after she wet herself, leaving the apartment while her daughter cried on the floor, and coming back to find her daughter no longer breathing.
5. Spencer Urged Stressed Parents to Seek Out Help if they Feel Overwhelmed
Spencer referenced that case in Monday’s news conference, saying that “it’s deeply disturbing that I’m here talking to you, very similar details, a week and a half after the last child that was a victim of being murdered inside a house with the people who are supposed to care for them.”
“Having children is stressful. Having toddlers are stressful. Having a baby is stressful,” Spencer said. “If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot care for your child, you can take your child to a fire station, you can take your child to a hospital.”