SAN DIEGO --The stepfather of a 2-year-old boy who disappeared in San Diego 14 years ago has been arrested in North Carolina and faces a murder charge, officials say.
Tieray Jones was arrested Monday by U.S. Marshals and Raleigh Police Department officers in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, about 50 miles east of Raleigh. California officials plan to request that the 37-year-old man be extradited to the state to face charges of murder and felony child abuse causing death, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said.
"I wasn't sure this day was ever going to come," said Dumanis, who described it as one of the "highest-profile unsolved cases in San Diego County."
"This case has weighed heavily on all of us and our hearts go out to the family," Dumanis said.
Jones wasn't able to be reached for comment. It was unclear Monday if he has an attorney.
The disappearance of Jahi Turner on April 25, 2002, shook the city, coming only months after the kidnapping and murder of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam from her home.
Police searched for the boy for weeks, combing parks and a landfill. His body has never been found.
"Jahi's disappearance rocked the community to its core 14 years ago," Dumanis said, reports CBS San Diego.
Authorities at the time questioned Jones, who was caring for the boy while his 18-year-old wife, a sailor, served aboard a San Diego-based Navy ship. The boy had been in San Diego for only five days before his disappearance. Before that, he had been living with his grandmother in Frederick, Maryland.
Jones told police he brought the child to a park and left him with a woman and several other children to get a soda from a nearby vending machine, reports the station. He said when he returned about 15 minutes later, they were all gone.
Officials discounted Jones' story because of inconsistencies, but they said in 2002 that they lacked evidence to charge him. The child was soon considered to be a probable homicide victim.
New evidence led to the arrest, but San Diego officials Monday declined to give specifics on what that was or where it was found.
About two years ago, a new team of investigators began developing fresh leads in the case, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said.
The San Diego detective who broke the case had remained in contact with the family, officials said.
Zimmerman recalled when the call came in about the missing boy. Dozens of police and sheriff's deputies searched the neighborhood and a nearby canyon for the toddler, aided by a helicopter and police dogs. Police said they hope the new development will help lead to the discovery of the boy's body.
The couple moved back to Maryland in 2003, and in 2006 Jones pleaded guilty to an unrelated assault charge for a barrage of gunfire in Frederick in 2004 that missed the targeted man. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
In an earlier case, Jones had been scheduled to stand trial for second-degree murder stemming from the fatal shooting of a 27-year-old man in Frederick on Aug. 30, 2000. Instead, the state dropped the charges, citing the disappearance or changed statements of nearly a dozen prosecution witnesses.