Preliminary Hearing Testimony Sheds Light On AV Boy’s Disappearance

Some, though certainly not all, of the questions relating to the disappearance and presumed death of 6-year-old Duke Flores were answered during the July 10 preliminary hearing for Jackee and Jennifer Contreras, Duke’s mother and aunt, respectively, who are accused of killing him.
According to the testimony of San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Detective Narcie Sousa, Jackee Contreras in April said her twin sister Jennifer strangled the boy after he was caught attempting to use a pillow to suffocate his 9-month-old cousin, Jennifer Contreras’s daughter. Sousa indicated that Jackee Contreras made an equivocal acknowledgment of participating in her son’s killing by binding the 6-year-old’s hands during the ordeal.
Duke Flores’ death appears to have occurred on April 14 at the home in the 22000 block of Cherokee Avenue in Apple Valley the sisters shared and where Duke Flores resided. On Thursday, April 25, 2019, after extended family members requested that the sheriff’s department, which serves as the contract police department in Apple Valley, make a welfare check on the child, deputies went to the Contreras residence at approximately 10:06 p.m. When questioned, Jackee Contreras said that she had not seen her son for approximately two weeks. After conducting a search of the area, deputies arrested Jackee Contreras on child neglect charges.  She was later transferred to the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, where she was booked on suspicion of murder. On Saturday, April 27, following interviews with family members, detectives arrested Jennifer Contreras, who was booked for murder, as well. On Monday, April 29,  crews consisting of homicide detectives, sheriff’s deputies sheriff’s department volunteers, landfill personnel and search dogs began searching the Victorville landfill in an effort to find Duke Flores’ body. That search continued on a daily basis until June 21, at which point it was discontinued. The eight-week search concentrated on a specific area of the landfill 75 yards in length, 60 yards in depth and 20 feet in height, during which an estimated 6,500-to-7,000 tons, i.e., 13-to-14 million pounds, of material was searched. The child’s body was not found.
Sousa testified that on April 14 Jackee Contreras told her she and her sister were hanging laundry in the backyard of the house and went into the garage when they heard a disturbance, whereupon they saw Duke standing over his 9-month old cousin, trying to smother her. Jackee said her sister then declared her intent to kill Duke. Thereafter, Jennifer Contreras put a plastic bag over her nephew’s head and Jackee Contreras used another cord to bind her son’s hands. Jennifer used the power cord to strangle the 6-year-old, after which his body was wrapped in a blanket and placed in a plastic bag and buried in a shallow grave in the backyard. When their pit bulls began to dig up the grave, however, the sisters dug the body up on Easter Sunday, and that night used a wagon to transport it some three to four blocks south of their house where they threw the body into a dumpster.
Another detective, Julius McChristian, testified that during an interview with the two sisters, Jennifer Contreras said her sister’s version of events was accurate.
The department used other means of verifying the story, according to testimony and evidence presented at the preliminary hearing. A security video from a  house across the street from where the Contreras sisters lived showed them transporting what appeared to be a body in a wagon on Easter night. Internet searches carried out that day and evening on Duke’s iPad indicate one or both of the sisters were attempting to determine the trash hauling schedule in the local area.
Detective Gary McWilliams testified that the Contreras sisters’ mother,  Ludia Gutierrez, grew suspicious later in April when Duke was not around nd her daughter concocted the unbelievable explanation that Duke had been placed in a mental hospital for observation.

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