6 important questions about how 3-year-old Brendan Creato died
It's been two days since 3-year-old Brendan Creato was found dead in a wooded area, about half a mile from a Haddon Township home. And as a community mourns, it's left with more questions than answers.
Here's what's known so far: Somewhere around 6 a.m., father DJ Creato called police saying Brendan had gone missing. Brendan had reportedly been in his father's care that night — his father and mother do not live together. Brendan was last seen wearing red pajamas, his father said.
A massive search involving first-responders and volunteers stirred by community social media postings went on for three hours — until Brendan was found dead in a wooded area off South Park Drive in Haddon Township. So far, authorities have not said if they suspect foul play, and no one has been charged.
Here's what's not known:
Was the door locked? In DJ Creato's call to police, he says "The door was locked. I guess he unlocked it and left." Someone else calls out for Brendan in the background, and DJ Breato talks to that person as he waits to talk to police further: "The top door was locked and the bottom door was locked. He must have unlocked the door and just left. I don't know what happened."
It's not clear if the door was still locked at the time of the call, or if police have been able to confirm those statements.
What did DJ Creato tell police? Friends said at a vigil for Brendan Creato that police questioned the father. The same friends were eager to say DJ Creato had nothing to do with his son's disappearance and death — though police haven't said anything to suggest he did.
“He’s a baby, and some stranger out there did this, and they need to find who did this,” Bernadette Ferraro said. In a brief interview with New Jersey 101.5, she said over and over again she knew the father wasn’t responsible.
Why wouldn't police let DJ Creato back to the house? Ferraro and other friends said Tuesday police wouldn't let DJ Creato back into his own parents' home, where he and Brendan had been staying when Brendan went missing. Police haven't disclosed many details of the investigation, and it's not clear if that's changed since.
When will police know if Brendan's death involved foul play? For now, police are being very cautious not to suggest wrongdoing in Brendan's death, and not to rule it out. They cleared the wooded area where he was found fairly quickly, but a heavy police presence remained at the house all day.
What does the autopsy tell police? An autopsy was done the day Brendan Creato died, but “the cause and manner were not determined,” said Andy McNeil, public information officer for the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office. “The results are pending. It’s an ongoing and active investigation.” Police haven't yet said what other evidence may factor into an eventual determination of the cause of death. Toxicology reports can in some cases take months, according to medical examiners.
Is there a threat to the community? Again, without a better indication of how Brendan died, authorities have declined to say.
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DJ Creato hasn't yet made any public statement about the death — his father, David Creato Sr., has said only that the family is shocked.
Brendan's mother, Samantha Denoto, issued a statement Tuesday night on behalf of her family, expressing her grief and asking for privacy as the family mourns.
“We are heartbroken by the loss of our beautiful boy Brendan Creato,” Denoto said. “Along with the Creato family, who also lost a son and grandson, we are grieving and tremendously saddened.”
She continued: “We thank the community, which searched this morning for Brendan and gathered tonight in his memory. We appreciate your efforts and kind words,” Denoto said Tuesday. “We do not have any answers about what occurred."
Authorities are asking anyone with information to contact Camden County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Michael Rhoads at 856-225-8561 or Haddon Township Police Detective Don Quinn at 856-833-6208.