Report faults police, kin in boys' deaths in car trunk

Despite intensive search, no one looked inside car


CAMDEN, N.J. - Police and relatives of three boys who died in the trunk of a car in Camden checked the vehicle at least five times over two days but never opened the doors or the trunk until the bodies were found, a report released yesterday said.

The 28-page report said Camden police had never adopted national guidelines issued in 2000 that called for the inspection of confined spaces such as refrigerators and car trunks during a search for lost children.

Those guidelines, which the report recommends Camden police adopt immediately, were prompted in part by the deaths of 11 children in car trunks in three incidents in the summer of 1998.

The report by a Camden police chief and two officials from the County Prosecutor's Office does not assign blame or name any individual officers.

But it does spell out a breakdown in command in the early stages of the search and the failure by police to secure the yard where the boys were last seen or to bring in search dogs immediately.

The report also said that the boys' relatives waited too long to call police and that they should have told searchers the oldest of the missing children liked to play in the car.

But even when the family did call 911, police were not dispatched for more than 25 minutes because of other priority calls.

The report said all the searches of the car were made from outside the vehicle and that if anyone had gone inside they would have spotted the boys' shoes on the floor of the rear seat, through which they gained entry to the trunk.

The way the bodies were found and an examination of them indicated that the boys did not struggle before falling unconscious, the report said.

"I think there is enough blame to go around," Camden County Prosecutor Vincent P. Sarubbi said.

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