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Family identifies boy found in trunk of vehicle; 2 in custody

According to family, the victim is 6-year-old Eli. On Friday, Orono Police said two people had been arrested in connection to the death.

ORONO, Minn. — *Editor's note: The above video first aired Friday, May 20, 2022.

Family has identified the boy found in the trunk of a vehicle Friday as 6-year-old Eli.

According to the Orono Police Department, officers received a call just before 7:10 a.m. on a report of a suspicious vehicle driving on a rim with its back window smashed out. When officers located the vehicle, they conducted a traffic stop at Shoreline Drive and Bartlett Boulevard in the city of Mound and noticed blood inside the vehicle.

During a press conference Friday afternoon, Orono Police Chief Correy Farniok said the body was located during an inventory search after officers impounded the car.

The driver of the vehicle and another suspect, who county jail records show to be the boy's mother and a 27-year-old Minneapolis man, respectively, were located by police in Mound and taken into custody. KARE 11 typically doesn't name a suspect until formal charges have been filed.

Court records show Eli's mother had recently been engaged in custody disputes with his father.

On Friday, police also collected evidence from a Shell gas station in Mound where they located "parts and information related to the criminal activity." Police said they believe the vehicle had stopped at the gas station prior to the traffic stop.

Credit: Family of Eli

"This was an isolated incident," Chief Farniok said. "We believe, or we know, that the suspects that were involved in this case are in custody. And, we are working through the investigation to determine what involvement each of them had."

Mound Mayor Ray Salazar spoke with KARE 11 Sunday, saying the loss of Eli is "incomprehensible." Salazar says a vigil will be held to honor Eli this week, the day and time of which is forthcoming. 

"This horrifying and unimaginable loss of life of Eli is incomprehensible in our small town, Mound. On behalf of the City of Mound we are praying for the soul of Eli and our hearts are crying and praying for the family of Eli.

I have been in contact with Father Peter Richards Pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church and is offering to host a vigil and perform a burial for Eli and awaiting approval from Tory, Eli's father with more information forthcoming.

We have the greatest of confidence in Orono police department in its complete and thorough investigation of this crime and it is important to know that there is no public threat."

On Saturday, Kevin Borg, Superintendent of Westonka Public Schools, sent an email to families saying the victim is believed to be a kindergarten student at Shirley Hills Primary School. In the letter, Borg said they're still awaiting positive identification from police.

"It is horrifying and difficult to process a tragedy of this magnitude, especially in our close-knit community. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those who are grieving this profound loss," Borg's letter reads, in part. "The death of any young person is a loss that, in one way or another, affects each of us. Even those without direct connections to the student may need help processing this news. The district’s crisis support team will be on-site at Shirley Hills starting Monday morning as the school community begins to process this loss. Additionally, school counselors and staff in all of our buildings will be available to support students, staff and parents in any way they can."

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the family to help cover funeral expenses.

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