Two weeks ago, Jesus Ismenia Marinero asked her friend to look after her children if anything bad happened to her.

Marinero, 45, had been living in constant fear over the past several months, said Teresa Rivera-Avelar, Marinero’s friend.

Police say Marinero was killed and her body was dumped near Lauritzen Gardens. A couple walking in the area about 7 p.m. Wednesday found her body. Her hands looked blue.

Her son, Angel, 11 months, was found alive and in good health in a trash container in La Vista.

An Amber Alert was issued Thursday for her 4-year-old son, Josue Ramirez-Marinero, who police believe was abducted. He remained missing Friday morning and is believed to be in danger, police said.

The alert, which was canceled after Marinero’s silver 2000 Jeep Cherokee Laredo was found due to Amber Alert guidelines, said the boy has short black hair and was last seen wearing a gray shirt and gray sweat pants. 

Police located Marinero’s Jeep at midday Thursday, abandoned near an apartment complex at 2119 Arbor St.

A neighbor said the Jeep had been in that location since Wednesday morning.

Friday morning, Omaha police searched a home near 20th Street and Poppleton Avenue.

Late Thursday morning, police had Fourth Street taped off between Cedar and Frances Streets. Detectives were searching a wooded area behind a guardrail just to the south of Fourth and Frances.

Trouble for the Marinero family started early this year, Rivera-Avelar said.

Marinero’s home, at 1932 S. 18th St., caught fire April 22. She was convinced someone set it on fire. Fire investigators have been investigating the incident as an arson but have not identified suspects. The fire engulfed the basement and first floor, causing $45,000 in damage, said Omaha Fire Battalion Chief Timothy McCaw.

Leading up to the fire, Marinero had seen men in trucks following closely behind her around town, said Rivera-Avelar. Each time she turned, the truck did, too.

Since January, Marinero has reported to police that someone had burglarized her home on five occasions. In one case, the burglar spray-painted on the walls.

Marinero and her family moved in with her sister after her house burned down. They had been staying near 48th Avenue and O Street.

Gus Peterson, the relative’s next door neighbor, said the house had been broken into several times after the Marineros moved in; a security system had recently been installed. Police have not yet confirmed the burglaries at the relative’s home.

Tuesday was the last time Rivera-Avelar saw her dear friend and children when they shared fish soup over lunch — Marinero’s favorite.

A midweek lunch was a rare occasion for the friends, since Marinero often worked seven days a week. But she had the week off from her job at a ConAgra Foods production facility, Rivera-Avelar said. Usually, Rivera-Avelar watched Marinero’s children while Marinero worked.

Marinero showed up at Rivera-Avelar’s home Tuesday in tears. Rivera-Avelar said Marinero spent much of the afternoon talking to insurance agents about the fire on the phone. She also had plans to meet someone, maybe a social worker, at the South Omaha Library, Rivera-Avelar said.

Marinero was planning to meet her partner of about five years, Jose Ramirez, at Marinero’s sister’s home Tuesday night, said Veronica Rosa, Marinero’s niece. Ramirez kept calling Marinero, but her phone was off. About 11 p.m., he received a message from the phone that she was at the hospital but heading home. After that message, Marinero no longer answered the phone or responded to messages, Rosa said. She had been driving the Jeep with her two children, Rosa said.

Ramirez continued to look for Marinero on Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning he called the police, Rosa said.

He showed up at Rivera-Avelar’s home Wednesday morning looking for his children and girlfriend. He said they did not return home on Tuesday.

Rivera-Avelar began calling Marinero’s cell phone. At first, it rang, but no one answered; she said when she tried again later, it was turned off.

Wednesday evening, Rivera-Avelar saw a picture of Angel on social media after he was found in a trash container.

“At first when I saw the baby, I couldn’t believe it — how could someone do that to him?” she said. “I called Jose right away to tell him.”

Jose Ramirez, Angel’s father, cried when he saw his son and said, “That’s my baby. Oh my God,” according to Rivera-Avelar.

About 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, a man heard rattling from a trash container at the Alpine Village Apartments complex near 84th and Harrison Streets. When he opened the container, Angel was inside wearing only a diaper, police said. Angel, who was bruised but otherwise fine, was taken to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha.

Detectives questioned Jose Ramirez on Thursday. No arrests have been made in the case.

A small vigil was held Thursday night by workers from A Hand to Hold, an organization that helps families with missing children. Eight adults and three children clasped hands and prayed at Fourth and Cedar Streets, near where Marinero’s body was found.

Rebecca Patlan, a cofounder of the group, said they are hoping to work with the family and organize search groups to look for Josue.

“Help us look in parks, help us look in dumpsters,” Patlan said. “Help us find little Josue.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 402-444-STOP (7867) or the Omaha Police Department’s homicide unit at 402-444-5656. 

World-Herald staff writers Alia Conley and Jay Withrow contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1066, alissa.skelton@owh.com

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An earlier version of this story referred to Josue as 5 years old.

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