Noelvin was a little timid at first.
It was the first the time the 3-year-old Florida boy found sleeping on a West Side porch Monday morning and whose parents are feared dead after remains were found in a charred vehicle later that day was allowed to visit with his grandparents.
They sat down on the floor with him at the Erie County Social Services office in Cheektowaga Wednesday morning.
“Then he started interacting with us as a normal family like we always do," said Zenaida Colon, whose son, Miguel Anthony Valentin-Colon, is Noelvin’s father. "We sat and played with him and we laughed. He did great.”
As police try to identify the remains and figure out how they died, Colon is trying to get custody of the little boy.
On Tuesday, a judge turned down her request for custody and set an Oct. 9 court date to revisit the case.
Colon is hopeful that she’ll be able to get back to court much sooner than that. Her family has launched a social media campaign to get the boy back with the hashtag #bringnoelvinhome.
Like Noelvin, the grandparents are all from the Orlando area. That means that Erie County Child Protective Services has to coordinate with their counterparts in Florida to determine whether the boy can be placed in Colon’s care.
In the meantime, Colon and Noelvin’s maternal grandparents, Catherine Plaud and Luis Merced, were allowed to meet with Noelvin for a supervised, two-hour visit.
And when the visit was over, Colon said, Noelvin cheerfully said “bye.”
“He is a sweet boy," Colon said. "He gives a lot of hugs and kisses and we got to do that with him.”
Noelvin’s grandfather Luis Merced said thanked Buffalo for the support shown to his family. Said his daughter as a “great mom. The greatest mom in the world.” pic.twitter.com/DqK5N2dUQq
— Maki Becker (@makibecker) September 18, 2019
Colon said her grandson didn’t ask any questions about his parents and they didn’t ask him any questions either.
Colon and the other grandparents said they were heading back to Florida Wednesday to get ready for a home visit.
But Colon said she would come back as soon as Thursday if that meant she could bring Noelvin home.
The boy's parents, Nicole Marie Merced-Plaud, 24, and Valentin-Colon, 31, are considered missing by police. But their parents fear they are dead and that it was their bodies that were found in a wooded lot behind Black Rock Mini Storage on Tonawanda Street.
A third person who is a friend of the couple’s, Dhamyl Mirella Roman-Audiffred, 29, has also been listed as missing.
The couple’s family said none of them have been heard from since Sunday afternoon when Valentin-Colon’s sister talked to him by phone.
The family said they don’t know why the trio and the boy were in Buffalo. But they said it wasn’t unusual for them to spontaneously go on long road trips.
After their visit with Noelvin, the grandparents thanked the Buffalo community for the outpouring of support they have received since flying up on Monday after the boy was found.
"I want to say thank you to everyone who is trying to help us figure out this thing that my daughter is involved in,” said Luis Merced, Merced-Plaud’s father.
He described his daughter as a “great mom. The greatest mom in the world.”
Zenaida Colon was thankful to social workers, the police, the media and the public.
Colon said that Tuesday night she was having dinner at a downtown restaurant and the waitress, who recognized her from the news coverage, bought her dinner.
Investigators ask anyone who may have seen smoke or fire in the area of Tonawanda Street near Route 198 or I-190 early Monday or who may have had contact with Valentin-Colon, Merced Plaud or Roman-Audiffred to call homicide detectives at 851-4466. Information may also be directed to the department's confidential tip line by calling or texting 847-2255.
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