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Police: Body floating in canal thought to be California kidnapper

By the CNN Wire Staff
Jose Esteban Rodriguez allegedly snatched 4-year-old Juliani Cardenas from his grandmother's arms on January 18.
Jose Esteban Rodriguez allegedly snatched 4-year-old Juliani Cardenas from his grandmother's arms on January 18.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The kidnapped boy's mother says she's "relieved that all this is over"
  • NEW: She tells Rodriguez's mother that she feels her pain, having lost a son herself
  • Water authority worker alerts police after finding body in the Delta-Mendota Canal
  • Police believe body is that of Jose Rodriguez, accused of killing his ex-girlfriend's son

(CNN) -- A floating body was found Saturday that authorities believe to be the man who kidnapped his ex-girlfriend's 4-year-old son and drove with him into a canal.

A California water authority employee saw the body, believed to be that of Jose Esteban Rodriguez, at about 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. It was discovered in a part of the 117-mile Delta-Mendota Canal in the northern California city of Patterson, according to a press release from the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department.

The employee alerted Stanislaus County Sheriff's detectives, who went to the scene along with members of the department's dive team and the West Stanislaus-Patterson Fire Department.

Authorities determined the body was that of an adult Hispanic male with clothing and a physical make-up matching that of Rodriguez. Authorities will now employ scientific measures, such as DNA tests and dental records, and examine other evidence to definitively identify the body.

The discovery comes 11 days after authorities found the body of young Juliani Cardenas, the boy who Rodriguez allegedly swiped from his grandmother's arms on January 18.

Tabitha Cardenas, the boy's mother, who broke up with Rodriguez five months earlier, told CNN affiliate KCRA that she was "relieved that all this is over." She also expressed sympathy for Rodriguez's mother, now that his body has apparently been found.

Body found in canal
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"I feel her pain, because I know what it's like to lose a son," Cardenas said. "She knows that I have always given her the utmost respect, through everything."

A day later, a farmer saw a car that appeared to be Rodriguez's 2003 silver Toyota Corrolla -- purportedly with a man and youngster inside -- careen into the canal.

The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department said that the body found Saturday was about 11 miles south of where that car was driven into the water.

A homicide warrant had been issued for Rodriguez in connection with Juliani's death while authorities searched for him, Sheriff Adam Christianson said.

Last month, authorities found the man's Toyota trapped in 50 feet of water and intertwined with two other vehicles, according to Christianson. The windows of the car were opened and it was badly damaged, but there were no bodies inside.

Tabitha Cardenas had said Rodriguez either wanted to have her son for himself or wanted revenge for their breakup. She said she never thought Rodriguez, who is the father of her unborn child, would harm Juliani.

Rodriguez "wanted to be with my son," Cardenas said January 20. "He wanted to be with my son so bad that he took it to the extreme."

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