After police dogs, a helicopters and a dive team searched a lake area in Santa Barbara County in an effort to find a 5-year-old San Gabriel Valley boy who went missing, a sheriff's lieutenant on scene Tuesday said investigators have uncovered evidence that the boy's father had been there but the child had not.
The search for Aramazd Andressian Jr. led investigators to Lake Cachuma Recreation Area, where authorities learned that the boy’s father went on Friday, April 21, a day before the boy was reported missing and his father was arrested.
The father, 35-year-old Aramazd Andressian Sr., meanwhile, was released from custody Tuesday after the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department chose not to pursue charges against him. Andressian Sr. had been held on suspicion of child endangerment and child abduction.
On Tuesday, investigators searched the area around the lake “in hopes of locating any witnesses or evidence leading to the whereabouts of the missing child,” stated a Sheriff’s Department news release issued Tuesday morning. Aerial video from Sky5 showed a sheriff's helicopter flying above the lake, with divers and at least one boat in the water near Tequepis Point.
At the lake, sheriff's Lt. Joe Mendoza said evidence and surveillance video showed the boy's father had been at Lake Cachuma, but his son had not.
The boy remains missing. Mendoza said investigators are still optimistic that the boy will be found.
In talking with investigators, Andressian Sr. gave no indication he has hurt his son, Mendoza said.
"He gave conflicting statements (and) he could not offer any information to his whereabouts, but nothing to lead us to believe the child has been harmed," Mendoza said.
Andressian Sr. has retained a criminal defense attorney, Daniel A. Nardoni of Pasadena, according to a statement from a family law attorney who represents Andressian Sr.
"Aramazd, his family and counsel are fully cooperating with the police in their efforts to locate little Ara," said the statement, issued Tuesday afternoon by Lizarraga Law of Ojai.
The statement asked for privacy for the family, saying they are "emotionally reeling from the fact they have a missing 5 year old grandson/nephew, as well as a family member in custody."
Nardoni later told KTLA his client was released due to lack of evidence.
The father and son were seen on video at Disneyland on the night of Thursday, April 20. They left the Anaheim theme park after midnight, a sheriff's official told KTLA Monday.
On the morning of Saturday, April 21, Andressian Sr. was found unconscious in Arroyo Park in South Pasadena and was briefly hospitalized. About the same time, the boy's mother reported her son missing when the child and Andressian Sr. did not show up for a planned custody transfer in San Marino.
The child’s parents are in the midst of a divorce but share custody of the boy.
Lake Cachuma Recreation Area is in the mountains about 15 miles northwest of Santa Barbara. The Sheriff's Department search was wrapping up there Tuesday afternoon.
The Sheriff's Department's Homicide Division is working with the South Pasadena Police Department on the investigation. The San Barbara County Sheriff's Office and park rangers helped with the search at Lake Cachuma.