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Couple caught 2 months after being charged for killing child, burying him in backyard

CLEVELAND — Authorities have captured a couple who has been on the run since January when they were charged for the death of a 4-year-old boy found buried in a trash bag in the backyard of a Cleveland home nearly two years ago.

Joanne Vega, 31, and her husband Romaine Tolbert, 36, were taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Service Friday in the 300 block of East Maumee Street in Adrian, Michigan.

The couple was indicted on Jan. 14 and charged with murder, permitting child abuse, felonious assault, endangering children, involuntary manslaughter, gross abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and kidnapping, according to court documents.

Vega is the godmother of Eliazar Ruiz, whose skeletal remains were found buried in the 12900 block of Longmead Avenue in September 2017.

Authorities said the 4-year-old had likely been buried there several months before he was found. His death was ruled a homicide.

After the child was found, authorities released a sketch in hopes that someone knew who he was. The boy’s mother, who was incarcerated at the time, saw the sketch and alerted police to his identity.

The boy’s mother told authorities that she left him in Vega’s custody when she went to jail in July 2016. He was reported missing the following summer.

Following the couple’s indictment, Vega and Tolbert were scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 29. When they didn’t show up to court, a warrant was issued for their arrest.

US Marshal Pete Elliott stated, “The men and women from various law enforcement agencies who worked this case from day one refused to give up and swore a commitment in the name of Eliazar Ruiz. Strong partnerships across the board enabled the officers to safely arrest these two desperate fugitives on the run.”

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