Police find abducted toddler unharmed, but search for his mother ends in tragedy

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RAHWAY, NJ — The child who was the subject of a widely disseminated Amber Alert the afternoon of Friday, July 9, was found unharmed on July 10; however, his mother, who was also abducted, was found dead later that day. The child’s father, who allegedly abducted the Rahway mother and child, is in custody, according to former acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Rahway Police Department Director Jonathan Parham.

Sebastian Rios, 2, was found July 10 in Monterey, Tenn., where 27-year-old Tyler Rios, of Highland Park, was arrested without incident. Later in the day, investigators found the boy’s mother, 24-year-old Yasemin Uyar, dead in a wooded area nearby, off I-40.

An investigation led by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and assisted by members of the FBI’s Newark Field Office and satellite offices, under the leadership of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr.; the New Jersey State Police, under the leadership of Col. Patrick J. Callahan; and the Rahway Police Department, under the leadership of Parham, led to Tyler Rios being identified as a suspect in the case after Sebastian did not show up for day care Friday and Uyar did not arrive for scheduled work shifts. A welfare check was conducted on Uyar’s home by members of the Rahway Police Department the morning of July 9, but no one was found inside.

Shortly thereafter, the state police issued an Amber Alert that was sent to privately owned cell phones, broadcast on electronic billboards along highways in New Jersey and beyond, and widely shared via social media.

On July 12, Uyar’s mother, Karen Uyar, spoke at a press conference in front of the Highland Park Police Department, recalling her daughter’s kind heart and the family’s grief at her death.

According to Karen Uyar, her daughter met Tyler Rios at Highland Park High School, where they were both students. The couple dated on and off for several years, and, according to Karen Uyar, there was a long history of domestic violence.

“Her relationship with domestic violence and Tyler is a long relationship,” Karen Uyar said at the press conference, praising her daughter for being a great mother and finding the strength to get out of the abusive relationship. “People need to understand that it is not always the person who goes through this but the entire family. We as a family have been there for Yasemin through everything that was involved in their relationship.”

Karen Uyar said her daughter had only recently enrolled her toddler in day care, so she could work during the day and make a better life for them.

“She was so thrilled to have Sebastian. He truly was her best friend. She went nowhere without him,” Karen Uyar said. “She was just a brave young mom trying to live her life.”

In living that life, Yasemin Uyar moved to Rahway a few months ago; according to her mother, the main motive for the move was to distance herself and her son from Tyler Rios. And yet, according to Karen Uyar, her daughter was preparing to move again on July 9, because Tyler Rios had found out where she was living.

Now the family is struggling to cope with the grief of losing Yasemin Uyar and is working to support Sebastian, who, according to his grandmother, is doing well.

“He was very quiet when I first picked him up. It was obvious he had a rough couple of days, but within an hour he was back to his normal personality,” she said.

To further support Sebastian, an Uyar family friend, Fred Heid, has set up a GoFundMe at https://tinyurl.com/cy3ky333; the proceeds of the fundraiser will go entirely to Sebastian. As of press time on July 15, nearly $22,000 had been raised.

Throughout her speech at the press conference, Karen Uyar repeated that Yasemin’s voice must be heard and that the issue of domestic violence needs to be addressed.

“I know in my heart she would want the message to get out there about supporting domestic violence policies. Her voice needs to continue on. Her life already has a purpose, because we have Sebastian,” Karen Uyar said. “But I feel like the purpose that God has taken her for is so the issue of domestic violence is supported.”

Karen Uyar stressed how important it is for those experiencing domestic violence to reach out for help. Despite her daughter’s recent death, Karen Uyar expressed gratitude to the police who supported her daughter and worked for a long time to save her.

“They have never stopped helping her. I really believe the police and FBI did as much as they could do,” Karen Uyar said.

Now, law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office are working to get justice for Yasemin Uyar and Sebastian.

“We are relieved that Sebastian Rios has been found safe and that Tyler Rios is in custody,” Ruotolo said July 10, just days before leaving her position as acting county prosecutor to lead the N.J. Division of Criminal Justice; William A. Daniel is now the county’s prosecutor.

Tyler Rios is charged with first-degree kidnapping in connection with the alleged abduction of his son; convictions on first-degree kidnapping charges are commonly punishable by terms of 15 to 30 years in state prison.

An autopsy of Yasemin Uyar’s body, conducted in Tennessee, determined that her death was the result of homicide. On July 15, Daniel and Parham announced that Tyler Rios has additionally been charged with first-degree murder. Convictions on criminal charges of this nature are commonly punishable by terms of up to life in state prison.

Tyler Rios remains in custody in Tennessee pending extradition back to New Jersey, after which a first appearance and detention hearing will be scheduled to take place in Union County Superior Court. According to the UCPO, there is currently no timetable for Rios’ extradition.

Anyone with information about this matter is still urged to contact UCPO Lt. Johnny Ho at 908-403-8271 or Detective Richard Acosta at 908-347-0404.

These criminal charges are mere accusations. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proved guilty in a court of law.