RIVERSIDE — A suspect in the slaying of a 3-year-old Glen Avon boy, who was strangled and then buried in a shallow grave south of here, was arrested Monday near Coos Bay, Ore., Riverside County sheriff's authorities said.
Raymond Eugene Ferrell, 29, who was arrested on an outstanding narcotics warrant filed earlier in California, surrendered to Oregon State Police at 9:30 a.m. after a brief chase in a rural area near the home of a relative, sheriff's spokesman Don Bender said.
Ferrell is expected to be returned to Riverside "within three days" for questioning about the death of Bobby Crawford, Bender said.
Bobby's body was discovered in an orange grove near Lake Mathews, six days after he was last seen Oct. 27, with his 18-month-old brother, Jason, in Ferrell's dune buggy at a convenience store near his home.
Ferrell, the live-in boyfriend of Bobby's mother, disappeared shortly after being questioned by sheriff's investigators in the case. He became a suspect because of "inconsistencies in his story regarding times, witnesses and places he said he was," Bender said.
After Bobby was reported missing, hundreds of friends and relatives of his mother, Karen Hill, 21, of Glen Avon, and of his father, Robert Crawford of Taft, launched a massive search for him.
Meanwhile, sheriff's investigators here, based on tips gathered during their investigation, alerted law enforcement officials in California, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee and Oklahoma to be on the lookout for Ferrell, whose past includes a record of minor, "nonviolent crimes" and an Oct. 16 arrest on a traffic warrant that led to an additional cocaine possession charge.
Bender said Oregon police were "acting on information provided earlier by this office when they made their arrest." He added that Ferrell is believed to have "barely arrived" in Oregon when the arrest was made.
Now, "I'm hopeful that we can put together enough of a case to get a murder charge against him," Bender said. However, he added, "we are having a tough time pulling evidence together."
Bobby's mother has told investigators that she accompanied Ferrell on at least two previous occasions to the orange grove where her son's body was found. Bender said she is not a suspect in the case.
Sheriff's investigators have found physical evidence near the grave site, including a stripped-down Volkswagen reported stolen in the Riverside area a month ago from which Ferrell allegedly took spare parts to use in his auto repair business, authorities said.
While much of the investigation has centered in and around the orange grove, Bender said that "recent heavy rains" have made it difficult to collect physical evidence such as fibers and fingerprints that could be used in the case.
Meanwhile, Hill's husband, from whom she is separated, won temporary custody of Jason on Thursday at a Riverside court hearing. Jason had been placed in the custody of the county Department of Social Services because of indications, including bruises around his neck, that he may have been abused, authorities said.