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Lawmakers seek updates on toddler's death

Authorities have found the remains of a toddler, Justin Kowalczik, in a 3-foot grave in the backyard of a Hallock Street home in Farmingdale, State Police said Saturday, and are investigating the boyfriend of the child's mother. Videojournalist: Ed Betz (Oct. 6, 2012)

Two Suffolk County lawmakers Thursday called on county and State Police to provide updates on the case of a 17-month-old boy found buried in his family's Farmingdale yard in October.

No arrests have been made, and no cause of death declared in the eight months since Justin Kowalczik's body was unearthed.

The boy's mother, Heather Kowalczik, who returned to Middletown after the discovery, led State Police to his body after a child protective services investigation at the house she shared with Robert Rodriguez, 30, the father of her other two sons.

At a Public Safety Committee meeting in Hauppauge on Thursday, Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), the committee chairwoman, and Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) asked county officials to provide them with an update on the investigation.

"We just want to make sure that this issue is being followed up on properly," Calarco said. "This was a 17-month-old child who was found buried in a backyard. It is very disturbing, and to hear nothing come of it for some time, I think is worthy of us to look into."

The lawmakers were responding to a request made during the public comment portion of the meeting by John Bogack, a retired Suffolk child protective services worker.

"There does not appear to be any official revelation of any sort whether this was a homicide or accidental death," Bogack said. "I'm asking the committee . . . whether . . . it might inquire what the progress of that investigation might be, so that Justin can have some sort of conclusion as to what happened to him."

State Police are conducting the investigation, but did not respond to calls for comment Thursday. Browning said that because the county does not have jurisdiction over state troopers, she would reach out to Suffolk police to determine if they could provide general updates. "It's to give us a bit more comfort," Browning said.

A Suffolk police spokeswoman declined to comment because the probe isn't under the department's jurisdiction.

State Police in October described Rodriguez as a "person of interest" in the case. His attorney, Byron Divins of Garden City, said police have not asked to speak with his client since then.

Attempts to reach Heather Kowalczik on Thursday at listed Orange County phone numbers were unsuccessful.

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