SAN DIEGO -- An East Coast man who was arrested this week in North Carolina on suspicion of murdering his toddler stepson, who was reported missing from a Balboa Park-area playground 14 years ago and whose body has never been found, will be extradited to San Diego.
Tieray Dawayne Jones, 37, waived extradition at a short hearing in Wake County Court in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday.
Jones was taken into custody in Rocky Mount, N.C., on suspicion of killing 2-year-old Jahi Turner, San Diego Police Department Chief Shelley Zimmerman and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced at a Monday afternoon briefing at downtown SDPD headquarters.
Jones faces charges of murder and child abuse causing death. He will be brought to San Diego within 30 days to stand trial.
Authorities declined to disclose what led to the belated arrest in the high-profile case, which had proved so devoid of developments that it began to seem to be one that likely would never be solved.
Dumanis told reporters she hadn't been sure over the years that "this day would ever come," describing the longtime unsolved case as one that "weighed heavily on all our hearts."
"Jahi's disappearance rocked the community to its core 14 years ago," she said.
The suspect reported the youngster missing on April 25, 2002. At the time, he lived in a Golden Hill apartment with Jahi and the child's 18-year-old mother, Navy sailor Tameka Jones.
The stepfather told police he had brought Jahi to a park at Cedar and 28th streets, left him with a woman and several other children to get a soda from a nearby vending machine and returned to find them all gone.
Authorities at the time declined to comment on news reports that Jahi possibly had not been to that playground at all that day and that the suspect had failed a lie-detector test.
The boy's disappearance prompted weeks of intensive searches of canyons, fields and neighborhoods in the area, as well as a grueling weeklong sweep of the Miramar Landfill.
The efforts turned up no evidence regarding what had become of Jahi, who soon was considered a probable homicide victim.
Seven months after the child vanished, his stepfather was arrested by a bounty hunter in San Diego and taken to Maryland to face unrelated drug charges.
In 2006, Jones pleaded no contest to an assault count stemming from a shooting in that state and was sentenced to five years in prison, according to the Frederick News-Post.
Though the investigation into Jahi's suspected murder ultimately stalled, authorities remained committed to solving the case one day, Dumanis told reporters.
"We never gave up on finding justice for Jahi," she said.
About two years ago, a new team of investigators began developing fresh leads in the case, Zimmerman said.
Throughout the last 14 years, detectives were intent on recovering the child's body as well as finding his killer, police Capt. David Nisleit told reporters.
"And that is still one of our goals, to find Jahi," Nisleit said.