Details of Disappearance
Duke was last seen in Apple Valley, California on April 14, 2019. He lived with his mother, Jackee Raquel Contreras, and her twin sister, Jennifer Rachel Contreras, in the 22000 block of Cherokee Avenue. Photos of the women are posted with this case summary. Duke's father, who suffered from debilitating health problems, also lived in the residence.
Jackee and Jennifer told Duke's father and various other members of the family that Duke had been committed to a psychiatric hospital, but they became increasingly suspicious of the story because the women could not provide any details or paperwork to support it. On April 25, several members of his extended family, including his maternal grandmother and both paternal grandparents, went to Duke's house to confront his mother and aunt regarding his whereabouts.
When the group arrived at the house that night, there was an altercation that turned physical, and Jennifer kept cursing and repeating, "It's too late. He's never coming back."
The police were called in response to the altercation. When an officer responded, he saw a chaotic scene with about twenty people in the front yard of the residence. Duke's father and grandparents told the officer that he had not been seen by anyone in one to two weeks, and his paternal grandfather showed the officer an area in the backyard where the earth appeared to have been recently been disturbed.
The officer spoke privately to Jackee, who admitted that Duke had been missing for nearly a week. She said she and Jennifer had looked around the neighborhood for about an hour, but couldn't find him, so they went home and carried on as normal. They never reported Duke missing.
As a result of what she told the officer, Jackee was arrested for child neglect because she had failed to report Duke's disappearance. On April 27, after the police interviewed Jackee again, she was was additionally charged with her son's murder, and Jennifer was arrested on the same murder charge.
According to Jackee's April 27 statement to police, she and Jennifer were hanging clothes to dry in the backyard on April 14 when they heard a scream from the garage and went to see what was wrong. They saw Duke trying to smother Jennifer's nine-month-old daughter with a pillow.
They pulled him off of the baby and Jennifer said, "I've got to kill him." Jennifer then took Duke outside and returned with him about five minutes later, and the two women positioned Duke between them, placed plastic over his head and wrapped a power cord around his neck. Jackee tied a second cord around Duke's hands, and then Jennifer strangled him to death.
The women then wrapped Duke's body in a blanket, placed it in a bag and buried it in the backyard. On April 21, however, they decided to move it, because the family's dogs kept digging at the grave and had partially exposed Duke's body. They put the body in a wagon and went around the neighborhood late that night, taking Jennifer's two young daughters along, before placing the body in a dumpster three blocks south of their home.
When Jennifer was arrested, she initially gave a story that was similar to her sister's but implicated only Jackee. She said that after they caught Duke trying to smother the baby, Jackee took Duke out into the backyard while Jennifer stayed in the garage. When she went outside later, Jackee told Jennifer that Duke was no longer there, and Jennifer didn't ask what had happened.
Jackee later asked Jennifer to take out three bags of trash, one of which was much heavier than the other two, and Jennifer said she assumed her sister had killed Duke. After police confronted Jennifer with the details of Jackee's confession, however, Jennifer began to cry and said, "What she said was right."
The police have found some additional evidence to corroborate Jackee's statement. Video surveillance footage from a nearby home showed two adults pushing a stroller and pulling a wagon with a large item inside it on the night Jackee said she and Jennifer put Duke's body in the dumpster. Someone used Duke's iPad make over 100 online searches about trash pickup times in the area.
Authorities believe Duke's body was put in the Victorville Landfill, but a search lasting nearly two months turned up no human remains. His mother and aunt are awaiting trial in his death. Foul play is suspected in Duke's case due to the circumstances involved.