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Little boy's murder in Imperial Beach remains unsolved nearly 42 years later

Posted at 9:32 AM, Jun 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-24 12:32:34-04

IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. (KGTV) — It's been more than forty years since the body of a little boy from Imperial Beach was discovered in San Diego Bay.

The search for his killer remains a mystery. ABC 10News reporter Natalie Chuck spoke with his sister, as detectives continue working to solve this California cold case.

"I adored my baby brother," said Vereniz Costanza.

She remembers being 4 years old and obsessed with her baby brother, Andy. Constanza says the two were inseparable just like they were in the picture she showed Chuck.

"If you look at it, I'm gripping, like I'm holding onto dear life cause he did not want to sit still for that picture, and you know back in those years. Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of pictures of him."

Their family spent most of their time living in Tijuana, but their mom worked in Los Angeles on occasion.

Those nights, they would stay at a family member's home on Delaware Street in Imperial Beach.

"No different than any other night, you know," said Costanza. "We played, hoped that Grandpa would let us stay up a little later. It was a holiday weekend, it was Labor Day weekend."

On September 6, 1981, 21-month-old Andy, his sister, their aunt, and their grandpa were all sleeping in the same room.

"Grandpa, he says that he kind of sensed somebody was there, but he thought it was either my auntie or I going to the bathroom," said Constanza. But after some time passed...

"He checked the crib, and that's when he realized Andy was gone."

A single window was left open and a shoe print was left behind by the person police believe kidnapped the little boy. Roughly six hours later, two people setting a bait trap found Andy's body floating in San Diego Bay.

"I remember men in suits coming and going and I just remember asking - 'Where's Andy? Where's Andy?'"

A kidnapper and killer on the loose left the neighborhood terrified.

"Right now none of us are safe."

More than forty years later with no suspect, this case is bizarre, even for Senior Investigator Tony Johnson with the San Diego District Attorney's Office.

"Sometimes some of them affect you more emotionally than others and this is certainly one that affects me," said Johnson. He calls what happened that night exceptionally unusual.

"This is really, I think, a parent's worst nightmare come true."

The killer not only pulled Andy from his crib but also left behind a teddy bear and clothes stolen from a garage just a few doors down.

"It's unusual because you would think that Andy would've cried out or made some kind of noise so we don't really know exactly how was accomplished."

Plus. graphic evidence showing what the little boy endured.

"Unfortunately, it looks like there were human bite marks on his arm and they were actually examined by a odontologist and he said that he could identify the source of the bite marks if we could find who that is."

The DA's Office now relying on those clothes and stolen items, hoping new technology will pull what's left of DNA evidence. Plus, urging anyone to come forward if they know of any similar cases.

"Maybe they didn't get reported or maybe they're a little bit different something that would give us a lead to work on I mean that's really what we need," said Johnson.

"We need something to follow up on right now we don't have it. We're really hoping that the detectives with modern technology can shed some light and find answers for us."

Especially for Andy's grandpa.

"I think he was one of the ones that was hit the hardest just because you always have that guilt. And you know, now he's in his late 80s, he's got terminal cancer, and if this case were solved, I mean, I think that it would mean so much to him to finally be able to like close that chapter and know, there is nothing he could have done."

Costanza remembers the drive to California from Mexico the day before Andy's kidnapping. They passed the same cemetery they always passed but this time, Andy noticed it.

"He pointed to the cemetery and was like - 'What is that?' And my mom said - 'Oh, that's where the angels are,' and he said - "yes mommy.' Like he was being called to the cemetery."

Today, that's where Andy is laid to rest.

"I just really felt like he felt that's where he needed to be."

But his spirit is right by his sister's side every second. Constanza says every time she sees an angel, she thinks about Andy.

"I can't see an angel without thinking about Andy," said Constanza. "It just, they're one and the same in my mind.

Anyone with information regarding this case is encouraged to contact the district attorney's office.