(Massachusetts State Police)
Ernesto Gonzalez, Jr., and his son, Giovanni Gonzalez.
A year ago today, Giovanni Gonzalez was supposed to go home with his mother.
Instead, the little boy who vanished during a weekend visit with his father, Ernesto Gonzalez in Lynn, has been the subject of a yearlong search and an infuriating mystery. Gonzalez was arrested, and confessed in November to killing the boy in a jailhouse interview with the Globe.
But since then, the 37-year-old former meatpacker has pleaded not guilty to charges of parental kidnapping and lying to law enforcement. He has kept silent, locked up for 23 hours a day in a special segregation unit in Essex County Jail in Middleton, with one hour for recreation, as authorities await the results of scientific testing on samples from his apartment.
"This whole investigation, we’re sparing no effort, no expense," said Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett. "It’s still a search for the truth."
Earlier this month, Gonzalez's lawyer Lawrence McGuire waived his client's right to a speedy trial pending the outcome of scientific testing that is part of the investigation, according to assistant clerk Richard Deschamps and the District Attorney's office. The next hearing is Sept. 3 in Essex Superior Court in Salem.
After Gonzalez's confession, authorities executed another search warrant at his Brightwood Terrace apartment and have sent samples for scientific testing with the State Police and Orchid Cellmark in Texas, a private DNA testing company that has conducted testing in other high-profile child disappearances, including the JonBenet Ramsey case.
Giovanni's mother and authorities are still appealing to the public for any information about his disappearance. His mother hopes that he is still alive, and is publicizing a $7,000 reward for his return. Tonight, she planned a prayer ceremony at her home for him, deciding against holding a candlelight vigil.
"To me, having a vigil is like saying he is dead," said Daisy Colon, who lives in East Boston, today. "He’s not dead for me."
Ernesto Gonzalez's lawyer, Lawrence McGuire, was out of the office and could not be reached for comment.
The episode began during a weekend visit with Gonzalez that started Aug. 15, 2008. He had seen the boy only sporadically in the past few years, but had recently had him for two visits without incident, according to the police report.
Giovanni Gonzalez, who turned six in May, loved Superman and Spiderman, and was supposed to have started kindergarten last fall, was last seen with his father on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2008.
Colon arrived to pick him up the next day at 4 p.m., as scheduled, but Ernesto Gonzalez did not answer her phone calls, which grew increasingly frantic. He did not answer when she pounded on the door. Finally, when fire officials entered through a second-floor window and found Ernesto Gonzalez, alone, with a cut on his hand, Gonzalez said he had never had the boy.
Gonzalez was arrested and has been held without bail ever since. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of parental kidnapping, which is punished by up to a year in the House of Correction, and lying to a law enforcement officer, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in state prison.
A few months ago, jail officials moved him to the "administrative segregation" unit at Essex County jail in Middleton for his own protection, because he is a high-profile inmate, said Paul Fleming, spokesman for the Essex County Sheriff's Department. Gonzalez is confined to his own cell, 23 hours a day, with one hour for recreation.
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