A suburban Chicago man made a grim discovery Tuesday afternoon when he found a body in the Des Plaines River police believe is that of missing 1-year-old Bryeon Hunter.
Robert Larson of suburban Westchester told the Tribune he was kayaking on the river just north of 31st Street near the Brookfield Zoo when he "smelled a strong odor" as he approached a pile of logs.
"I swung around and came back and noticed the body of a baby face-up," Larson, 47, told the paper.
Larson, who operates a K-9 training center, had been out on the river almost every day searching for the boy, often aided by two of his K-9 dogs.
"I looked down in that water and I thought, 'This can't possibly be the final resting place for this boy. I just can't let that happen,'" Larson told ABC Chicago. "I don't know that boy. Never met him. Never met his family. I just thought it was the right thing to do. That's the only reason I'm out here."
Officials have searched the river ever since the toddler's mother, Lakeshia Baker, first reported Bryeon kidnapped in mid-April, prompting an AMBER Alert for the small boy.
Police quickly exposed Baker's story — in which she told cops she had been abducted and beaten before masked men took her son — as a hoax, and charged the 22-year-old and her boyfriend Michael Scott, 21, with the infant's murder.
Baker was held without bail and Scott on $750,000 bond after they later told investigators they beat Bryeon with a belt and plastic clothes hangers April 15 before leaving him to die on the bathroom floor of their apartment, the Tribune reports.
The Cook County Sheriff's office, which had been focusing their search efforts on the Des Plaines River for the past month, said an autopsy will be performed Wednesday to positively identify the remains.