Boy who went missing in Cape Coral had gaps in guardianship
CAPE CORAL, Fla. A boy found early Thursday after he went missing for more than 24 hours had no legal guardians as of January, according to a Collier County Sheriff’s Office incident report.
A Department of Children and Families worker in January found the boy living on the 500 block of Palmetto Avenue in Immokalee with another boy and a 16-year-old girl, none of whom spoke English or were enrolled in school, the report states.
All were placed in DCF custody at the time, according to the report.
Months later, the boy was on a Cape Coral youth soccer team coached by Josh Ertter, the last man to see him before he went missing Tuesday night from the Cape Coral Sports Complex.
“It was just a very scary situation,” Ertter said. “It was a whirlwind. It’s the stuff you see on TV.”
Juan Lopez-Ramos, 26, and Etelvina Lopez-Ramirez, 20, both of the 500 block of New Market Road in Immokalee, were arrested and face felony kidnapping charges after they were found at their home with the boy, who is their nephew, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office said.
Sheriff’s office reports variously refer to Lopez-Ramos and Lopez Ramirez as husband and wife and boyfriend and girlfriend.
The couple picked up the boy from the soccer complex but never told anyone, according to deputies. That includes Ertter, who said the boy disappeared from the field after heading to the bathroom.
“We sent some people to go look and then they were looking on all the fields at the complex,” Ertter said.
Ertter reported the boy missing at 8:35 p.m. Tuesday, close to an hour after he last saw him around 7:45 p.m. A long night of tossing and turning ensued for the coach as authorities combed the area, at one point sending up a helicopter.
“He’s a fantastic kid,” Ertter said. “Always smiling, always respectful.”
The coach got the news of the boy’s discovery overnight.
“I was very, very relieved,” Ertter said. “Got a few more hours of sleep last night.”
The boy has since been placed in the care of a foster family, Florida Department of Children and Families spokeswoman Natalie Harrell said. The department has opened a child protection investigation.
No one has been identified as the boy’s guardian at the time of his disappearance this week.