Orlando, Florida couple Nicole Merced Plaud, 24, and Miguel Anthony Valentin-Colon, 31, are missing and feared dead after their rental car was found torched in Buffalo, New York, with two bodies inside. The gruesome discovery was made September 16.
The couple’s three-year-old son, later identified by family as Noelvin Valentin, was found more than a mile away, sleeping inside a cardboard box left on a front porch.
The couple was traveling with their friend, Dhamyl Mirella Roman-Audiffred, 29, who is also missing. It’s believed the group arrived in Buffalo on the evening of Sunday, September 15. What transpired after their arrival is unknown.
On September 20, the Buffalo News reported that police discovered two kilos (4.4 pounds) of cocaine in the hotel room near the Buffalo Niagra International Airport where the group was staying. The drugs were found in one of two coolers that had been left behind.
Valentin-Colon’s mother, Zenaida Colon said her son is a truck driver and Plaud is a stay-at-home mom. “They are just great parents,” she told KFOR. She said her son’s car had been recalled for repairs and they were taking advantage of having a rental vehicle.
Plaud and Valentin-Colon were last heard from around 6 p.m. on Sunday, September 15, the Buffalo News reported. Everything sounded fine and uneventful.
According to police, Valentin-Colon, Merced Plaud, and Roman-Audiffred are all considered missing persons. The car and the human remains inside are being treated as a homicide.”It’s going to take quite some time to put this all together,” Buffalo Police Chief Jeff Rinaldo said.”Potentially all three of them are still alive. We have not identified the people in the vehicle,” he explained.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Buffalo Resident Lois Augsburger Found a Little Boy on Her Porch Who Kept Saying “the Car’s on Fire”
At approximately 8 a.m. on Monday, September 16, Buffalo resident Lois Augsburger opened her front door and found a little boy crawling out of a cardboard box she’d left on her porch to keep neighborhood cats warm. Augsburger asked the toddler where his mother was. “’The car’s on fire.’ That’s all he kept saying,” she told WKBW.
Police checked missing person reports to see if they could locate the toddler’s parents and canvassed Augsburger’s neighborhood to see if anyone knew the little boy’s family. Unsuccessful, the boy was turned over to Erie County Child Protective Services.
“It’s extremely odd that after this amount of time has passed that we wouldn’t have received a missing child call by now. We see a fair amount of children that wander away, especially if grandma or grandpa happen to be watching them,” Rinaldo explained.
You know, a child will wander out a side door, and it usually takes anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes before the calls start for a missing child, and we have not seen that in this case,” the police captain added.
2. Police Discovered a Burned-out Car in a Wooded Area near Where the Child Was Found
At 6 p.m. the same day, Buffalo Police received a call about a burned-out car located in a wooded area behind an industrial park in the Buffalo neighborhood of Black Rock. By the time first responders arrived, the fire had already extinguished itself. Police and firefighters suspected the car had been set on fire hours before. Inside the vehicle, authorities found two sets of unidentifiable human remains.
Detectives then searched the woods for any clues and spoke with construction workers who’d been at a nearby job site. No one had seen or heard anything unusual.
3. Police Released Video of Two Suspects Running from the Burning Vehicle with a Child
During a September 17 press conference led by Buffalo Police Chief Jeff Rinaldo, he revealed that security cameras captured unusual activity behind the Black Rock Mini Storage facility, near to where the car and bodies were found.
The first video showed a man walking on a dirt road behind the industrial area at 2:54 a.m. Monday morning. The man was seen exactly three minutes after a car arrived.
In the second video, two suspects are seen fleeing the area. One man is holding the hand of a child, who is running next to him. The other man is running with two bags believed to contain gas canisters. He briefly stops and places a long, black piece of clothing over his head and then takes off again. An explosion is then caught on camera as Plaud and Valentin-Colon’s rented Chrysler Pacifica goes up in flames.
A third video with enhanced images was also distributed by police. Authorities admit the infrared cameras in combination with the area being dark have made it difficult to identify the two suspects.
4. Police Identified Noelvin Valentin by Posting His Photo on Social Media
Police posted the little boy’s photo on social media when they failed to receive any missing person reports for the child or his parents. “Buffalo Police are looking for the parent or guardian of a three-year-old Hispanic male who was found sleeping on the porch on Potomac Ave at approximately 8 AM this morning. Anyone with information is asked to please contact D-district at 716-851-4413 or call 911,” it read.
When Valentin-Colon’s sister didn’t hear from the family on Monday she became concerned and started checking social media. She soon came across the photo of her nephew, Noelvin. Zenaida Colon immediately traveled to Buffalo so she could bring Noelvin back to Florida. She was met by his maternal grandparents who live in New York.
Noelvin saw his grandparents earlier this week during a two-hour supervised visit. The little boy didn’t bring up his parents and they didn’t ask. Zenaida Colon reported he was in good spirits. “He recognized us, hugged us, kissed us,” she told WIVB. The grandparents also thanked Lois Augsburger and the Buffalo community for all of their help and support.
On September 17, a judge initially turned down paternal grandmother Zenaida Colon’s request for custody, citing that Erie County Child Protective Services officials need to collaborate with their Florida counterparts to determine if his extended family can provide a suitable environment. The judge set an October 9 court date to revisit the request. According to Zenaida Colon, the couple has two other children who are safe at home back in the Orlando area.
5. Police Are Trying to Determine if the Couple’s Friend Is Connected to the Car Fire & Their Disappearance
Police are trying to determine if the Nicole Merced Plaud and Miguel Anthony Valentin-Colon’s friend, Dhamyl Mirella Roman-Audiffred, might be connected to the car fire and human remains. Audiffred, who is also listed as a missing person, was a former resident of Webster, New York, approximately 88 miles from where the child, car and human remains were located.
Records show that Audiffred lived in a Webster apartment complex until 2016, then moved to Florida. Audiffred, Plaud, and Valentin-Colon all shared the same Orlando address.
It is currently unknown why the three decided to travel together to Buffalo. Zenaida Colon did say it wasn’t unusual for Plaud and Valentin-Colon to spontaneously go on trips.
Rinaldo said it may take forensic investigators up to four weeks to determine if the remains in the car belong to the Plaud, Valentin-Colon or Audiffred. He explained that DNA and other samples must be collected and analyzed.