Investigators also expect Tyler Rios face charges in the death of the young boy's mother, 24-year-old Yasemin Uyar, whose body was found in a wooded area in Monterey, just east of Nashville.
Her family says they have been inundated with messages of support that have given them strength, and the vowed that Uyar will not be remembered as victim of domestic violence but as a brave young woman who finally gained the strength to escape her abuser.
"Yasemin's voice needs to continue to be heard on issues of domestic violence," said grandmother Karen Uyar, who raised Yasemin. "Her relationship with domestic violence and Tyler is a long relationship. And people have to understand that's it not always just the person that goes through this, it's the entire family."
The Union County prosecutor's office and Rahway police said the 27-year-old Rios, of Highland Park, is charged with first-degree kidnapping, but additional criminal charges are pending.
"It was certainly a tragedy," New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan said. "I'm not sure we could have done anything different or quicker. We followed those criteria as to putting out those Amber Alert. Even though we knew the mother was missing and in danger, that really went out because of the toddler involved in this. When subjects change license plates and turn off their phones, it makes it very difficult for us to track them down. That's why we enlist the help of the public. As with all cases like this, we will do a deep dive in connection with the Rahway Police Department, see if we could have done anything different. But from what I've been briefed on so far, I don't think we could have changed the outcome of this case."
Police believe Uyar and her son Sebastian were taken against their will by the boy's father on Thursday, sparking an Amber Alert.
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The alert was canceled after Sebastian was found safe in Tennessee Friday night, but Uyar's body was not found until Saturday.
"It was an awful awful unspeakable tragedy, but God bless that woman and thank God the little boy was saved," Governor Phil Murphy said. "It just is a reminder of the scourge of domestic violence."
No information on a possible cause of death was immediately provided, and New Jersey authorities did not provide additional information about charges pending in her death.
The family says Rios has a violent past, and he pleaded guilty to domestic violence in 2017 and served 88 days behind bars.
The Amber Alert was issued Friday after Sebastian wasn't taken to his day care and Uyar did not arrive for scheduled work shifts, prosecutors said.
Rios was currently on probation with an active order of protection against him, but the Uyar family says the abuse continued.
They said Rios had recently broken into her apartment, and she was in the process of moving.
"At this point in her life, she had finally become strong enough to leave the relationship and raise Sebastian and try to have the best life she could have," Karen Uyar. "Yassie was a great mom. Yassie was a really great mom."
Neighbors and friends left flowers on the front steps of Uyar's Rahway home.
"It's horrible as a mom, as a mother, as a woman -- you try to protect your family," friend Patty Kiokenny said.
A memorial service for Uyar is scheduled for July 23 at Reformed Church in Highland Park, with the exact time yet to be determined. Sebastian is said to be doing well and is not aware of what's happening at the moment. He will turn 3 in August.
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