LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KTSM) – New Mexico State Police arrested a father in an alleged connection to the death of his son after his body was found in the Rio Grande in June.
Various law enforcement agencies discovered the body of a child in the Rio Grande River in June after a grandmother asked state police to look for her grandchild. An autopsy of the body found in the river was confirmed to be Shaquille Ferguson Jr., a five-year-old.
Police arrested the child’s father, Shaquille Ferguson Sr., on alleged charges of negligent abuse of a child resulting in death, abuse of a child (tortured, cruelly confined, or cruelly punished), and obstruction of an investigation of child abuse. He was taken to the Sierra County Detention Center on Thursday.
“This case remains under investigation by the New Mexico State Police with assistance from HSI,” a statement from the New Mexico State Police said.
The state police’s investigation began on June 18, 2021 when Ferguson Jr.’s grandmother visited with officers in Truth or Consequences to say she had not seen her grandson in two-and-a-half-weeks. She explained that she last saw him while she, Ferguson Jr. and Ferguson Sr., were at the Rio Grande River at Riverfront Park.
She told police the father and son walked towards the river and moments later, the father did not return with his son.
“Shaquille Sr. told her that Shaquille Jr. was with another family member,” a statement said. “That was the last time she reported seeing Shaquille Jr.”
During the police’s investigation, an individual claimed to have seen a father and son matching the pair’s description at the riverbank on June 12, state police say. The same witness said he saw the two walk toward the river and the father return without the child a short time later.
Another witness alleged to have seen Shaquille Jr. tied up by his father for misbehaving.
Shortly after hearing from Shaquille Jr.’s grandmother, state police with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations located Shaquille Sr. in Truth or Consequences. The father allegedly claimed his son was with another family member in Colorado.
Police found the family member the father mentioned did not exist and alleged his story was fictitious.
A statement from police says Shaquille Sr., allegedly then told agents that he and his son were swimming in the Rio Grande and that Shaquille Jr. drowned.
“He told agents that he left Shaquille Jr.’s body on the shore and walked away,” police stated. “Agents took Shaquille Sr. down to the river and he showed them where he left the body, which was no longer there.”
The next day, divers with the New Mexico State Police, New Mexico Parks, Albuquerque Police Department and U.S. Border Patrol located and recovered the deceased body of a child six miles from the Rotary Park where the father said he left his son.
Law enforcement sent the body to the Office of the Medical Investigators for identification and a determination of the cause of death.
“The poor condition of the recovered body made identification a difficult process,” the police stated. “On July 14, 2021, a DNA sample was obtained from the biological mother of Shaquille Ferguson Jr. and sent to the state crime lab for comparison.”