Family members of two missing Amsterdam teenagers braced for the worst Thursday night as police worked to positively identify two bodies found earlier in the day in a field in the town of Florida.
Investigators from the state police forensics unit were sent to the field off Snooks Corners Road in response to a tip. There, they discovered two bodies.
Police did not provide many details, but the family of one of the teenagers said they were told that the discovery was connected to the missing youths’ case.
The boys, 13-year-old Jonathan Dejesus and 16-year-old Paul Damphier, were last seen July 9 by Damphier’s mother, who told police she dropped them off at Dejesus‘ residence on Vanderveer Street that afternoon.
“We are horrified at the thought that it may be him,” Jonathan’s grandmother, Deborah Tiano, told The Daily Gazette on Thursday evening from her home in Gloversville. “I don’t know what my daughter will do or how the family will ever mend.”
“We’re praying to God that there is a chance this is not him,” the grandmother added later.
Amsterdam and state police, meanwhile, worked to identify the remains, find out how they got there and determine if they were the victims of foul play.
Police said Thursday evening they don’t know how long the two bodies had been in the secluded area near the New York State Thruway and the Chuctanunda Creek.
City Police Chief Gregory Culick said “We’re close to some resolution.” His comments came at a late afternoon news conference.
State police were at the scene from about 12:15 p.m. on, according to Ron Mead, former Florida town supervisor. Mead’s home on Mead Road is adjacent to the 35-acre soybean field where the bodies were found. Troopers combed the area about a quarter-mile from the Amsterdam city line. By evening, Mead said it had appeared they hadn’t removed anything from the site.
The parents of Dejesus and Damphier came to police separately to report their children missing. Police soon learned that Dejesus’ mother, Bridget Massie, received a Facebook message alerting her to the possibility that the missing boys were going to “steal weed from someone.” She also saw a message posted on Damphier’s Facebook page stating that the two boys were “fine” and did not want to be found.
Among those at the scene Thursday evening was Dejesus’ grandfather, Charles Tiano. He and three other people unsuccessfully attempted to cross a police line, showing officers a missing person poster with his grandson’s picture and asking if his remains were in that field.
He also attended the news conference and said police had told Massie that the bodies discovered in the field were “connected” to the boys’ disappearance.
Family members have been upset, saying that police should have gone to the media to publicize the disappearances. Police investigated the case, but did not ask the media for help, Deborah Tiano said.
“We have ourselves, as a family, tried desperately to get his face out there,” she said, “but the Amsterdam police considered them missing runaways.”
She said she and the family tried to go through other avenues, including the mayor’s office, and tried to contact media outlets themselves. “I kept calling and, as of now, I just feel like this family was so let down, Paul’s family was so let down,” Tiano said. “More should have been done.”
Tiano acknowledged that police had been called at least once before when Jonathan could not be found. He had overslept at a friend’s house and soon returned home, she said.
This time, though, Jonathan was just gone too long.
“I know police did look for leads,” she said, “but they did not put it on the news and keep showing their faces.”
Police were asking Thursday that anyone with information contact them at 842-1100.
Autopsies are to be performed on the remains, state police Bureau of Criminal Investigations Lt. Robert Poisson said.
Amsterdam police have assigned eight officers to assist state police in the investigation, Culick said, and will be allowed as much time as needed.
“We’re doing everything in our power,” Amsterdam Detective Lt. Kurt Conroy said. “We are trying to find out what happened.”
Asked about her grandson Thursday evening, Tiano couldn’t help but change tenses, speaking about him in both past and present tenses. She recalled him being at their home just three weeks ago, exercising with his uncles.
“He’s a handful, he’s a lot of fun,” Tiano said.
“Everything he ask me was ‘Please, grandma’ and ‘Thank you,’ ” she said. “He’s just a good boy.”
As to what happened to the boys, Tiano said all they know is that they were dropped off on Vanderveer Street by Paul’s mother.
“She said ‘See you later.’ They were going to play and hang out with friends,” Tiano said. “They were never seen again.”