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Palmdale landfill searched for missing infant’s remains; parents arrested in Utah

police tape on a windshield
A roll of police tape is left on the windshield of Los Angeles County sheriff’s vehicle.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)
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Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigators searched the Antelope Valley Landfill this week for the remains of an infant who disappeared in Palmdale several days earlier, according to law enforcement officials.

“Unfortunately, this started off as a missing infant and now it is a death investigation,” Lt. Omar Camacho told The Times on Tuesday. “We’re searching [the landfill] based on where the investigation has taken us, and unfortunately we weren’t able to find anything today.”

A day later, Camacho confirmed that the baby’s father is considered a suspect.

Baki Dewees was born April 14 and last seen in Palmdale on May 3, according to a flier distributed by his family on Facebook.

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“My family & I [are] desperately asking for your help,” the child’s great aunt wrote on Facebook. “Baki is only 3 weeks old. Please help us bring Baki home to his grandmother.”

Two days after giving birth, the mother — 25-year-old Rosealani Gaoa — was arrested in Ogden, Utah, on suspicion of aggravated child abuse, intentional child abuse and reckless child abuse, jail records show.

At the time, Camacho said, Gaoa’s four children and the baby’s father were all with her in Utah. Afterward, family welfare officials there took custody of the child at the center of the abuse allegations. Camacho referred further questions about the nature of that case to officials in Ogden.

“We didn’t investigate that case, nor did we have the specifics of it,” he said, noting that the alleged abuse occurred in Utah.

One law enforcement source, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said the victim in that case is Baki’s oldest sister.

After Gaoa’s arrest, the children’s father, Yusuf Dewees, 24, left Utah with the couple’s three remaining children and returned to Palmdale, officials said.

But he came back to Ogden several days later, possibly so that authorities there could interview him, Camacho said. Jail records show he was arrested on May 7 and held without bail on suspicion of obstruction of justice and making a false statement.

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The law enforcement source not cleared to speak publicly said Dewees was arrested after being questioned about Baki’s disappearance and allegedly lying to police in Ogden. Camacho did not say whether the alleged obstruction stemmed from the incidents in California or in Utah.

Ogden Police Lt. Glen Buss said police in Utah first contacted Dewees and Gaoa at a homeless shelter. He referred additional questions about the nature of their arrest to the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, saying the two departments are working in conjunction.

The case came to the attention of Sheriff’s Department officials after the infant’s grandmother made a missing person report sometime around May 8. Deputies responded to the 2300 block of Carolyn Drive in Palmdale regarding her call, according to a news release. Camacho said the matter was forwarded to the department’s Homicide Bureau a day later. On Tuesday, he said it was still too early in the investigation to release information about why officials believe the child is dead or how it is suspected he died.

Searchers who began combing the landfill on Tuesday were looking for “specific things,” Camacho said. But he said finding the child’s remains could prove a difficult undertaking that might require cutting down through layers of refuse. The search could use machinery or cadaver dogs, he said, but “the only way possible at times is just with human hands.”

On Wednesday, Camacho said officials had suspended the search in that area but could resume looking later.

“If we had believed that the child was still alive we would have asked the public for help,” Camacho said. “But at this point in time, unfortunately, that’s not the case. Now we’re just trying to get some closure for the family.”

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The remaining two children in California have since been removed by child welfare officials, Camacho said. It was not clear why the family was in Utah.

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