A missing Texas boy who was the subject of an Amber Alert nearly a week ago had been living in a filthy shack that included an altar to death, according to media reports.
Video of the squalor, obtained by Dallas’ Fox station, shows a shed crammed with food, personal belongings and two beds where nine people — including Noel Rodriguez-Alvarez, 6, lived.
Inside the Everman, Texas, shed where the child was last seen there’s an altar to Santa Muerte, or Saint Death — a female cult figure that personifies death in Mexico.
Santa Muerte has been denounced by the Catholic Church but has grown in popularity recently — particular with members of the Gulf, Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels, the DEA said.
“With a globe in one hand and a jeweled sickle in the other, the statue’s symbolism of personal empowerment and terror appeals to drug dealers,” the agency stated.
Investigators including the FBI, who was asked to assist local forces in the small town south of Fort Worth, were seen coming and going from the shed this week with documents and other pieces of evidence.
An Amber Alert was issued for Noel on Saturday, after police and child protective services were tipped off by family members who claimed they hadn’t seen the boy — described as having physical and developmental challenges in months. His mother is believed to have left the country.
“He was born at 25 weeks, and therefore, has a lot of physical disabilities and developmental disorders,” Everman Police Chief Craig Spencer told WFAA.
“He suffers from social disorder…and has chronic lung disease, which has required him to be on oxygen at certain points of time.”
Prior to the Amber Alert being issued, the boys’ mother, Cindy Rodriguez-Singh, 37, was contacted by police and child protective services. When asked about Noel’s whereabouts, she told investigators he was in Mexico, staying with his biological father. However authorities later learned the boy’s father never met the boy, as he had been deported from the US before he was born.
When investigators tried reaching out to Noel’s siblings, they learned the children had been pulled from school.
Before authorities could make contact with Rodriguez-Singh again, she boarded a plane with six of her children and their stepfather. Noel was not on the flight, Everman police told Fox. Authorities believe they flew to Turkey, before making their way to India — where Rodriguez-Singh’s current husband is from.
The dingy shed is located behind the home of Charles Parson, 71. He told a local station he met Rodriguez-Singh at a grocery store nearly a decade ago and offered two spare rooms in his home since the single mom was “going through a rough patch.”
Eventually she moved into the shed as she had more kids — with a total of ten. Three of them live with their grandparents.
“They’re scared they’re going to get in trouble with the law,” Parson explained. “They’re afraid they may have done something wrong.”
The man, who considered himself Noel’s godfather, believes the boy’s mom did not hurt him and that the child is still alive.
“I know her,” he offered as proof.
Meanwhile, police have issued an arrest warrant for Rodriguez-Singh and plan to charge her for making false reports to a police officer regarding a missing person, and for violating her probation in an unrelated case.
Police describe her as having an “extensive criminal history” and explained she was the subject of a previous Child Protective Services investigation.