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Father mistakenly sought in son’s suspected killing seeks to clear name

Updated June 2, 2021 - 5:32 pm

The Las Vegas father whom police briefly sought Saturday in connection with the suspected killing of his son — only to be cleared hours later when the boy was found alive — said Wednesday he fears his reputation has been forever damaged by the false suspicions.

“At the end of the day I need to clear my name,” Jose Montes said in his first interview since he was the subject of a multi-state search by Las Vegas police on Saturday in what proved to be a case of mistaken identity.

Montes said he wants formal apologies from anyone who suspected him of any wrongdoing in the hours before the boy and his brother were found safe.

“I want apologies directly,” Montes said. “I haven’t gotten the right apologies that I deserve. To begin with, from the detectives. From Metro (police), from the coroner’s office. A call. A letter. Anything that … I can show my kids these are the apologies I got.”

The origins of the bizarre ordeal can be traced to Friday morning’s discovery of an unidentified boy’s remains in a mountainous area just off state Route 160. Las Vegas police said the child was killed, prompting investigators to release a composite sketch of the boy in the hope that the public could help identify him. That, in turn, led a Las Vegas woman to call police and voice the belief that the dead child was her son — 8-year-old Daniel Cisneros from Las Vegas, whose father is Montes.

Police then held a news conference early Saturday to announce that the Cisneros, who was not identified by name by police, was last seen with his half-brother, 11-year-old Eden Montes, while both were in the care of their father. Jose Montes had picked up both boys on Thursday night and Eden’s mother had not been able to get in touch with them.

A search for Jose and Eden Montes ensued. However, police later learned the episode was a case of mistaken identity when Jose, Eden and Daniel were all found alive and well, camping in the Utah wilderness.

Father-sons camping trip

Jose Montes spoke about the ordeal Wednesday at the office of his attorney, Ryan Helmick, who noted that his client is in the midst of custody battles for both of his kids.

Jose Montes said he picked up his two sons from their mothers’ care on Thursday. He said he told the kids to let their mothers know they were going camping.

The next evening, the father and sons arrived at a campground in the Duck Creek, Utah, area, where they met up with roughly three dozen friends.

On Saturday morning, the entire entourage was going to ride all-terrain vehicles in the desert.

When Jose Montes left the campground that morning and got to a higher elevation on his ATV, messages began pouring into his phone.

“‘Are you OK? Are the kids OK? Did you really do this? What about the kids? Turn yourself in!’” Jose Montes said, quoting the messages on his phone.

“Everybody you can think of — family, friends,” he said. “It was about a hundred messages at once.”

He returned to the campground, got his kids and went to a nearby gas station where Eden spoke to his mom to let her know that he was OK. Daniel then called his mother to let her know that he was OK too.

“I let her know, you know what, your kid is fine,” he recalled. “She started yelling at me and a Metro department detective picked up the phone from her and said, ‘Where are you at?’”

“By the time I turned around I had about 100 to 150 cops surround me,” Jose Montes said.

“Took off my shirt, my socks,” he said. “It was embarrassing. Two of the officers, they snatch my kids and start running with them.”

It took about 90 minutes, he said, for everyone to realize the kids were fine and it was all a big mistake.

‘I feel embarrassed’

“I’m ashamed,” Jose Montes said. “I feel embarrassed to think they would even think something like that about me. Everything I do revolves around my sons.”

Eden Montes said he, too, was shocked by the police response, noting “the gas station got swatted by the cops.”

“They came and snatched me from my dad and I told them, ‘We are the kids!’” Eden said. “They asked questions, took photos of us, and…I was really worried for my dad.”

Jose Montes posted on his Facebook page Monday night that he could not believe his name had surfaced in the police investigation. He reiterated those thoughts Wednesday while Helmick said the case shows “that misidentification can lead to disastrous results.”

They declined to say whether they intend to file a lawsuit, but Jose Montes reiterated that he wants an apology from anyone who wrongly suspected him.

Las Vegas police and the Clark County coroner’s office, meanwhile, have yet to identify the child found dead Friday despite hundreds of tips pouring in from across the nation. Homicide Lt. Ray Spencer said Monday that police acted in the best interest of the Montes children when they released information Saturday about seeking Jose and Eden Montes.

“As a police agency we are going to do everything we can to locate a child we feel could be in danger,” the lieutenant said. “With the information that was provided by the mother, by another family member, with the identification being made from that mother, and along with the fact that social media posts were making that link early that morning, as an agency, we have to do everything we can when there is a child that is potentially in harm’s way. That’s what was done.”

Spencer said police efforts yielded “an exceptional outcome for the mother who went 18 hours thinking that her child was dead.”

“I truly understand the frustration the father is going through, but we are going to keep our investigation focused on who murdered the little child up on the mountain,” he added.

Las Vegas police continue to ask for the public’s help in identifying the boy found dead.

“If anybody saw somebody in the early morning hours as they were pulling over on the side of state Route 160, as they were driving to Pahrump, and noticed anything suspicious, we want them to call us,” Spencer said.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call police at 702-828-3521. A 24-hour tip line is available at 702-828-2907. Anonymous tips may be left with Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555.

Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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