Cuero teen's body found down river Monday morning


May 17, 2010 at 12:17 a.m.
Updated May 18, 2010 at 12:18 a.m.

CUERO - The agonizing three-day ordeal for the Perez family came to an end Monday morning.

An hour after putting a boat in the water for the third straight dawn, DeWitt County Sheriff Jode Zavesky and Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden Mike Hoffman found the lifeless body of 17-year-old Jeremy Perez in a debris swell about three miles downstream from where he had been swimming Friday morning.

"It's not what I hoped for, but it is what I expected," said Cheryl Perez, Jeremy's mother. "I was expecting the best, but I knew the possibility of them not finding him alive."

"It brings me a lot of peace knowing my baby's not in the water," she said. "I'm glad we found him. They're telling me I'm not going to be able to see him because of the condition of the body."

DeWitt County Justice of the Peace Peggy Meyer conducted an inquest and has ordered an autopsy at the Travis County Medical Examiner's Office.

Search difficult

Zavesky said the efforts to find Jeremy were important to him. He and Hoffman each put more than 40 hours on the water searching for Jeremy.

"I promised the family we would do everything we could, and I am happy to say that we were able to bring Jeremy back home to them," said the sheriff. Jeremy was found about 7:30 a.m. Monday.

Rising waters and swift currents had hampered search efforts since Jeremy became separated from his friends about noon Friday and rescue efforts began.

On Monday morning, the Guadalupe River had risen 3 feet since Sunday night, said the sheriff.

Taking part in rescue efforts were the Cuero Fire Department, Victoria Fire Department, DeWitt County Sheriff's Office including reserves, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Cuero Police Department and Department of Public Safety Aviation Division. A helicopter from Corpus Christi was used Friday in the search.

"We searched from daylight to dark every day," Zavesky said. "I know sometimes it didn't seem like we were getting things done as quickly as we ought to, but with the river being 8 to 12 feet above normal and the amount of debris coming down, it made our job a little more difficult."

Counselors on campus

Things were difficult, too, at Cuero High School where Jeremy was a drummer in the band.

Principal Mike Cavanaugh said at the start of the day a moment of silence was held, and later that morning he made the announcement that Jeremy had been found.

Four counselors were on campus, one went to each classroom on Jeremy's schedule. Other counselors were available in the school library for students who needed to talk.

"Some stayed for a little while; some stayed for two hours," Cavanaugh said of the students who sought counseling. "They seemed to do a little better this afternoon than this morning. Finding his body helped some. It was a little solace."

Cavanaugh said the additional counselors would be on campus again Tuesday. The principal said he is working with the family to possibly organize a memorial service of some kind.

Cavanaugh expects Jeremy's death to have a lasting effect at the school.

"It's going to be a long-term issue around here," Cavanaugh said. "Just because school is about to get out for the summer, doesn't mean it will go away."



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