SOUTH PASADENA, Calif. (CNS) - A search underway Thursday morning at Arroyo Seco Park for the 5-year-old South Pasadena boy missing since April 22 was prompted by new information that detectives believe is "credible," authorities said.
About 80 members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and South Pasadena Police Department were conducting the search operation in the park, located at 800 Stoney Drive, and the surrounding area for Aramazd Andressian Jr., said Deputy Don Walker.
Authorities were looking for additional evidence related to the boy's disappearance, according to Walker.
In a briefing at the park this morning, sheriff's Lt. Joe Mendoza told reporters that the search was being conducted because investigators received a recent tip that was regarded as "credible," but he declined to be more specific.
"We're not going to reveal where that tip came from, just to protect the integrity of the investigation," Mendoza said.
The search, which also will include search dogs and a drone, is in the same general area that was searched by South Pasadena police assisted by San Marino police soon after the boy went missing, Mendoza said.
Thursday's effort comes a day after the boy's mother, Ana Estevez, made a public plea for help in finding her son, calling his disappearance her "worst nightmare."
Authorities have been looking for the boy since April 22, a search that has spanned several Southern California counties, including Santa Barbara, where authorities searched in the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area, where the boy may have been with his father on April 21.
Aramazd Andressian Sr. was arrested April 22 and released from jail three days later. He was initially held in lieu of $10 million bail after he was found unconscious at South Pasadena's Arroyo Seco Park and could not account for his son's whereabouts.
On April 28, the day a search warrant was served at his South Pasadena home, Andressian released a statement through his attorney about his son's disappearance.
"I hope and pray for the safe return of my only child, my namesake, who has been missing since last Saturday morning, April 22nd," he said.
Andressian said his son wanted to go to the park that morning before they met with his mother for a custody exchange.
"In one moment, I was at the park with my son, and then I found myself waking up in Huntington Memorial Hospital hours later. I was told that a good Samaritan found me unconscious on the ground near my car, with young Aramazd nowhere in sight. I can only speculate that I must have been attacked in the park, given my unresponsive state and subsequent physical condition," the statement said.
He said he and his family "are heartbroken and grief-stricken that Aramazd Jr. is missing and may be in harm's way. I am pleading with the public to come forward with any knowledge of Aramazd Jr.'s whereabouts or information regarding the circumstances leading up to his disappearance."
When Andressian was released from custody, the sheriff's department said it had decided "not to present the case to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office for filing consideration at this time. The matter remains under investigation."
Sheriff's Capt. Chris Bergner said the weekend the child disappeared that his father's statements had "been convoluted and not consistent."
The boy's mother contacted police at 9 a.m. April 22 to report her son missing. She said her estranged husband, with whom she shares custody of their son, had failed to drop off the child at a pre-arranged meeting place.
The boy was last seen by his mother on April 18, via a Skype video call from an unknown location, South Pasadena police said.
Bloodhounds combed Arroyo Seco Park at least twice before Thursday, and Sierra Madre's search-and-rescue team and the San Gabriel and San Marino police departments joined the search.
Authorities also searched in Orange County, where a gray 2004 four-door BMW owned by Andressian was seen on the morning of April 21 at Disneyland in Anaheim, where he and the boy apparently spent the day on April 20, officials said.
A $20,000 reward approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday was offered for information that helps authorities locate the child.
The boy is white, 4 feet 1 and 55 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a plaid shirt and plaid shorts and has a small mole on the bottom of his right shoulder.
South Pasadena police asked anyone with information about the boy to call them at (626) 403-7297. Sheriff's detectives can be reached at (323) 890-5500.