8-Week Search For 6-Year-Old At Victorville Landfill Ends

After an eight-week effort in which teams sifted through more than 6,500 tons of garbage, investigators on Tuesday called off their search of the Victorville Landfill in the so-far unsuccessful attempt to recover the body of 6-year-old Duke Flores.
Investigators have made extremely strong statements to indicate the boy, who has not been seen or heard from since April, is dead. Both his mother and aunt have been in custody for two months and were charged shortly after their arrests with murder. Nevertheless, no positive proof to establish the child is dead has publicly emerged.
The son of Jose Flores and Jackee Contreras, Duke did not cohabit with his farther, but rather lived with his mother and his mother’s twin sister, Jennifer Contreras, at a home in the 22000 block of Cherokee Avenue in Apple Valley.
On Thursday, April 25, 2019, Duke’s grandmother, Jose Flores’ mother, requested that the sheriff’s department make a welfare check on the child. That evening, at approximately 10:06 pm, deputies from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department stationed in Apple Valley as members of that town’s police department responded to the Contreras residence. Shortly after their arrival, the deputies were told by Jackee Contreras that she had not seen her son for approximately two weeks. Deputies immediately began a search of the area. Jackee Contreras was arrested, transported and booked into the High Desert Detention Center for child neglect, stemming from her delay in reporting her son missing. She was later transferred to the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, where she was booked on suspicion of murder.
There is a report, the provenance and reliability of which is unknown, that Duke Flores was actually seen in the front yard of his mother and aunt’s home earlier in the day on April 25. The sheriff’s department, however, in order to protect the integrity of its investigation, has released relatively few details about what deputies and detectives have learned from their inquiries. The department has neither denied nor confirmed the claim with regard to the April 25 sighting.
Some details are known.
On Saturday, April 27, following interviews with family members, detectives arrested Duke’s aunt, Jennifer Contreras. She was booked for murder.
According to the department, “Through investigation, detectives had reason to believe that Jackee and Jennifer hold responsibility for the disappearance and death of Duke Flores. They think the sisters discarded the boy’s body in a dumpster near the family home on Cherokee Avenue in Apple Valley.”
Shortly after 7 am on Monday, April 29, a crew involving an unspecified number of homicide detectives, sheriff’s department volunteers and landfill personnel were actively searching the landfill in Victorville for the body of Duke Flores.
By 1 pm that day, the search team had swelled to four homicide detectives, 36 sheriff’s department volunteers, three canines, and 17 additional sheriff’s department members as well as landfill personnel. The primary area searched was approximately 70 feet by 70 feet by 10 feet in depth, involving some 600 tons of material.
The search resumed on the morning of April 30. Also that morning, Jackee Contreras and Jennifer Contreras were brought before Superior Court Judge Lisa Rogan for arraignment in Victorville Superior Court. With more than a dozen of Duke Flores’ family members present, they each entered a single not guilty plea to one count of murder. Judge Rogan set their bail at $1 million each.
Intensified searches at the landfill continued thereafter.
Following their arrests, no further statements from Jackee Contreras or Jennifer Contreras have been obtained to assist in the location of Duke Flores, either alive or dead.
A release from the sheriff’s department on Tuesday stated, “The search at the Victorville Landfill began on April 29th and continued until June 21st; the recovery effort ended with no remains found.” The release continued, “Numerous homicide detectives, deputies throughout the department, sheriff’s department volunteers, canine units, coroner Investigators, district attorney Investigators, and personnel from the landfill dedicated 8 weeks to the search.  The initial search area of approximately 70 feet by 70 feet by 10 feet in depth was expanded to 75 yards in length, 60 yards in depth and 20 feet in height.  An estimated 6,500-to-7,000 tons, 13-to-14 million pounds of material was searched.”
“This is not the outcome we had hoped for, but we knew going into this search that there was a chance we would not locate Duke,” Sheriff John McMahon said. “I am extremely proud of the dedication shown by every person who continued to show up day after day, desperately hoping to locate the young boy.”
At the sheriff’s office, the investigation is ongoing, with Detective Narcie Sousa leading efforts by the department’s specialized investigations division relating to Duke Flores.
In the meantime, prosecutors with the San Bernardino County District have been stymied by a body not having been produced. Jackee and Jennifer were due in court this week, on June 26 and June 27, for a pre-preliminary hearing and a preliminary hearing. On June 26, Judge Rogan held the pre-preliminary hearing, which was intended to ascertain if the circumstances warranted going ahead with the preliminary hearing. A determination was made to vacate the June 27 preliminary hearing. Instead, a pre-preliminary hearing was set for July 9 and a preliminary hearing tentatively set for July 10.
The sisters remain in custody.
-Mark Gutglueck

Leave a Reply