(CNN) — First came the alert about a missing 22-year-old mother and her baby.
Then, days later, the young woman turned up safe — albeit distressed, disoriented, disheveled.
And without her little boy.
The infant’s absence spurred an extensive search Tuesday night into Wednesday in Northern California, Yolo County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Dale Johnson told CNN.
That search appears to have ended in the worst possible way late Wednesday morning, with the discovery of the body of an infant in the search area. Authorities didn’t definitively say this was Samantha Green’s infant son.
Yolo County Sheriff’s Capt. Larry Cecchettini was visibly distraught when he told reporters about the find.
“It hits home,” Cecchettini said. “We are humans. When it involves a child, you just don’t give up.”
He didn’t detail the baby’s condition — including clothes or injuries — nor did he spell out authorities’ take on what happened, especially before the coroner finishes examining the body.
And Cecchettini did say, “It’s too early to tell about foul play.”
Boat patrol spots body amid ‘rough terrain’
What happened to Green and her infant son, who Johnson said was between 3 and 4 weeks old? How did they end up 10 miles from where they were reported missing? And who, if anyone, is responsible for the baby’s death?
All important questions, all of them unanswered midday Wednesday.
What authorities are saying is that a missing persons report was filed last Saturday in Woodland, a city of some 55,000 people 20 miles northwest of Sacramento.
The first break came Tuesday afternoon, in the form of a 911 call about a woman in need of help in the small town of Knights Landing, Johnson said.
Yolo County sheriff’s deputies went there and determined the woman was Green. But her baby wasn’t with her.
No one specified where the two went, though Johnson did say searchers focused on a slough off the Sacramento River that farmers use for irrigation.
“It’s rough terrain with thickets and bushes and trees and debris,” the sheriff’s captain said. ” … We are trying to walk the banks and sinking into mud up to our knees.”
Multiple law enforcement agencies and dogs were part of what Johnson called “a huge contingent” undertaking the search.
No indication, yet, this is a homicide
Ultimately, a boat patrol spotted the baby’s body “not too far from where the missing person (Green) was found last night,” Cecchettini said.
“It was in a thicket of brush right off the slough,” he added.
As to Green, she was in a nearby hospital Wednesday with unspecified injuries or ailments.
“She was extremely traumatized when she was found and she’s only given limited information at this point,” said Cecchettini, noting the mother has been told about the baby’s body. “Investigators are with her and still talking to her. It was difficult getting information from her.”
Authorities have opened a death investigation, but so far there’s been no word of charges in the case.
“At this time we don’t have any information to believe it would be a homicide,” Cecchettini said, while ceding that could change as evidence comes in. “It’s awhile for the coroner to respond, and it’s a long process.”