JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A day after a woman was found dead in her Southside apartment and her boyfriend, his 4-year-old son and her car were reported missing, the search continues for 26-year-old Norris Dail.
An arrest warrant for murder has been issued for Dail, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office announced Thursday.
The woman, who has been identified by police and family members as 26-year-old Cynthia Aviles, had a contentious relationship with Dail that involved domestic violence, restraining orders and custody hearings.
Once homicide detectives learned that Dail, his young son and Aviles' Mitsubishi Galant were missing, they asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to issue an Amber Alert, which went out just before 3 p.m. Wednesday. Within the hour, the child was found safe in Baltimore, where the couple was from, and the alert was canceled.
Norris and the car remain missing. Police describe the vehicle as a 2000 silver Galant with a Baltimore Ravens vanity license plate from Maryland, number 1BK9546. It also has a Ravens sticker on one of the windows.
"(Norris Dail) is listed and missing and we really need to talk to him," JSO homicide Lt. Steve Gallaher said Wednesday afternoon.
The U.S. Marshals Service said it has not been asked to look for Dail, adding that it would get involved only after an arrest warrant was issued.
News4Jax crime and safety expert Gil Smith said there's a good chance Dail is still in the Baltimore area because that's where he has family and friends. If officers were to locate Dail, they could detain him until JSO officers were able to interview him.
Police asked that anyone with information on the murder, or who knows Dail's whereabouts, or sees the car to call 911 or the Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS.
Family grieves loss of 'wonderful' mother
Aviles' aunts, Luz Aponte and Belinda Aponte, told NewsJax that the 4-year-old boy was dropped off with Dail's mother in Baltimore Wednesday before being returned to his mother's family.
"He was brought to his mothers' house here in Baltimore. He dropped him off and told his mom that he would come back in a few days to pick him up," Luz Aponte said. "We have Norris Junior with us right now and that makes my sister very happy. Right now, that is our priority."
The aunts said that the entire family is heartbroken over the loss of the 26-year-old mother, who was full of energy and worked hard to provide for her 4-year-old son and her family.
"My niece loved reading to him. She always made sure that he spoke well and understood what he was reading, taught him how to write his name, all these wonderful things," Luz Aponte said. "Anyone who can kill my niece the way she was killed has to be someone that's so angry. I can't even say that he went crazy because he had time to pack a bag and drive up here with the baby and drop the baby off."
Aviles' aunts sat down with News4Jax in Baltimore Thursday. They said their niece's relationship with Dail had turned rocky in recent years, something that Aviles' mother saw firsthand.
"My sister felt in her heart that this was coming. Her last visit to Florida, last month, she saw her daughter different," Belinda Aponte said.
As a photo of Aviles hangs inside the Baltimore home, family members said they're just trying to remember the good times and are hoping that Dail is found.
"I just hope people understand what he did was horrific. You can't hide him. If you are hiding him, or trying to protect him, because he doesn't deserve it. The same way we didn't deserve to have Cynthia taken away from us the way she was," Luz Aponte said.
Welfare check leads police to woman's body
Officers went to Aviles' unit at the L’Esperanza Apartments off University Boulevard, just south of Beach Boulevard, about 10:15 a.m. Wednesday after getting a call to check on her welfare.
Homicide detectives announced just before 2:30 p.m. that they had found a woman dead and that foul play was suspected. They said they were looking for her 26-year-old boyfriend who was seen leaving the apartment with his 4-year-old son about 10 p.m. Tuesday.
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said detectives will be looking at any surveillance video and speaking to neighbors, family members and the 4-year-old boy.
"They have people that work with child protective services that are trained to talk with children of that age. A lot of times, they are set up prior to the interview to make sure they're comfortable and relaxed, maybe have some family members there with him as someone who he may feel comfortable with. They are trained to get that information and talk to him in a certain way," Smith said.
The boy was attending Prodigies Early Learning Center off Beach Boulevard. An employee said the couple had recently moved to the area and their son came there nearly every day and the workers were relieved when he was found safe.
Questions raised over Amber Alert
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith explained why it took the Florida Department of Law Enforcement several hours to issue an Amber Alert, even though the woman's body was found Wednesday morning.
Smith said certain criteria must be met in order to issue an Amber Alert, which takes time to gather.
"They have to make sure that an abduction did occur and make sure that the child is in danger, believe (the child is) in danger and, of course, under 18 years of age. And also, they need to have the suspect information, the person who may have abducted the child and also a tag and vehicle information," Smith said.
The Sheriff's Office said Wednesday that the Amber Alert process worked fine.
"I don't think we could have done it any faster. We had FDLE assisting us, doing the Amber Alert. And, of course, FDLE is the one who issues the Amber Alert," Gallaher said. "It took about an hour to get it done, which was probably faster than normal."
Many people were also asking why they did not get a notification on their smartphone that an Amber Alert had been issued.
FDLE officials told News4Jax Thursday that they were ready to send out a cellphone alert, but then the boy was found safe.
An email from FDLE announcing an Amber Alert had been issued was sent at 2:50 p.m. Wednesday. But the email saying that the Amber Alert had been canceled was sent at 4:55 p.m. -- nearly an hour and a half after JSO had already announced the boy was found safe.
I-TEAM: Dail had history of domestic violence
Based on court records in Jacksonville and Maryland, the I-TEAM learned Wednesday afternoon that Dail's girlfriend and the owner of the car was Aviles. She had filed for custody of the boy in April 2015. The next month, Dail was charged with domestic violence.
Aviles requested a protective order, but it was denied in May and again in July of 2015. Over that summer, the couple was in mediation in the custody case. In August of last year, the couple was given joint custody. That same day, Aviles changed her Facebook status to say she was in a relationship with Dail.
Aviles was given a traffic citation in June 2016 in Duval County while driving the car that police are now seeking.
Smith said the domestic violence issues will most likely come into play during the investigation.
"They'll come back and talk with neighbors who were here at any time during the day and also talking with neighbors who may have witnessed some type of domestic violence or struggle, maybe prior to those days before, just to get an idea of what was going on inside the apartment prior to the homicide," Smith said.
In the couple's case, both injunctions were denied for lack of evidence.