Many questions, few answers
Family, awaiting word from police, reflects on mother’s challenges
The detectives, FBI agents and state troopers are gone, but police are keeping watch on the State Street property where a child’s remains were found Thursday.
The site — monitored Friday by a small cadre of patrol officers — was the scene of an intense search this week. Police say they found a child’s remains in a ditch behind 766 State St., but they say they won’t know if it is 4-month-old Rayen Puleski until an autopsy is completed.
“We will be speaking with the pathologists once the autopsy is completed but with test results, it could take several days before we’ll know details,” Public Safety Commissioner Michael Eidens said.
Police and the child’s family said the baby lived with his mother, Heaven Puleski, in the State Street building. The 38-year-old woman was
questioned by police on Wednesday but gave conflicting explanation of where her son was, according to officials familiar with the case.
While the full facts of Rayen Puleski’s brief life were beginning to surface, public records, relatives’ accounts and official sources depicted a chaotic domestic situation that spiraled downward in recent weeks.
Heaven Puleski and her baby were living in Saratoga Springs in the first weeks of the child’s life, Puleski’s aunt Lisa Dutcher told reporters Thursday night. Dutcher said she last saw the child in June when the mother and infant were living in a motel.
“He was healthy. He was fine. He gained a lot of weight. He was chunky,” said Dutcher, who has been a driving force in the family’s effort to get police and social services workers to search for the baby after he seemingly vanished in mid-july.
Dutcher said her niece moved to Schenectady to get out of the cramped motel room.
“She jumped on an apartment she thought would be great for the baby,” Dutcher said.
But trouble soon started. Dutcher said her niece, who lost custody of her two other children, struggled with drug problems.
Authorities said Puleski, who has battled heroin, is in detox.
Dutcher said others in the building helped care for Rayen. The child was last seen outside the State Street apartment building in footage recorded by a surveillance camera attached to the building.
The search for the child intensified Thursday afternoon when Schenectady detectives, FBI agents and State Police swarmed into an area behind the building. A diver searched an exposed portion of the Cowhorn Creek, which runs behind several houses in the area.
Dutcher and her relatives waited for hours to learn what was happening.
Even after a coroner’s van drove off with the remains, Dutcher said they could not get police to tell them what had been found. She said patrol officers at the apartment building promised they’d get details at police headquarters Thursday, but no one there gave them answers.
There was no word later Friday from authorities on whether they’d been able to confirm the identity of the dead child.
Family members later expressed anger and dismay that they were not notified about the discovery of the body. Most of what they learned about the investigation, Dutcher said, came from online posts.
“We have all been through this since Monday,” Dutcher said Thursday. “What I want to know is why we had to find this out on social media? How come we did not get any phone calls from detectives or child protective when we are the only ones that have been searching and doing our own investigation to find this baby?”
Eidens said “it’s our policy to release information when we can (and) it’s not a good idea for us to make comments on ongoing investigations that could end up inadvertently compromising the integrity of the investigation.”
Dutcher said the last time a county child protection services employee visited with Rayen was July 17. She said she has resigned herself to the cold reality that she probably won’t see the infant again.
“I’m just tired of keeping up hope and being dropped on my face so I just have to come to terms with the fact that it is him,” said Dutcher.
Defense attorney Michael Horan said police need to consider numerous issues in cases similar to this that may involve drug problems. He said generally two doctors typically make the medical determination if a person is a danger to themselves or others, which would mean the hospital could hold that individual without his or her consent.
In Puleski’s case, police may have to contend with the idea of whether she is in the right state of mind to be questioned and if her statements are credible.
Additionally, Horan said police investigators may also want to interview Puleski in the hospital in the hopes she can provide information for them to follow up on.
“They have to give you the Miranda warnings if they’re going to ask you questions while you’re in custody,” she said. “Would a reasonable person in those circumstances understand that they could say, ‘No I don’t want to talk to you and leave?’”
Police patrol the scene at 766 State St. in Schenectady Friday near where a child’s body was found Thursday. Results of an autopsy could take days, officials said.
Police secure the scene in the backyard of 766 State St., Schenectady, on friday. family members of a missing baby say answers to their questions aren’t coming fast enough.