A 6-year-old boy who was reported missing in March and is suspected by authorities to be dead now has his name memorialized through a playground that’s inclusive and accessible to children with disabilities.
Local law enforcement, public officials and more than 50 community members gathered on Monday morning in Everman at Clyde Pittman Park to unveil Noel Angel Alvarez playground, which is dedicated to a local boy who had mental and developmental disabilities and was described as vibrant and energetic.
Although the child, whose full name is Noel Rodriguez-Alvarez, was initially reported missing in March, investigators have found that he disappeared around October 2022 in an ongoing case that has shaken a small town and made national news. Noel’s mother was recently indicted on a capital murder charge, but his body has yet to be found.
Officials emphasized the playground opening as a celebratory event that symbolized the community’s dedication to a safe space for its children while acknowledging the pain that has come with Noel’s disappearance. The event started with a prayer led by Police Chaplain Don Gieseke, who asked attendees to raise their hands if they had known Noel’s name before the disappearance.
“Very few of you,” he observed. “We all know his name now, don’t we? And in the coming years, his name is going to be known as well because of this park, this playground that is now memorializing him. That’s something that is very good and very well-deserved.”
Gieseke noted how Noel is now with God, who has his “loving arm around him,” and no longer has to deal with the stress and trauma that he experienced.
“He is now a happy, laughing, playing child in heaven,” Gieseke said.
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Patricia Paris, who was Noel’s foster parent for about a year, told reporters that Noel was a “very lovable young man” who enjoyed playing with younger children and making them laugh. Noel also called Paris “mama” despite her trying to correct him.
“I don’t encourage any kids to call me mama. I always tell them that I’m Sweet Pea. That was the name I was given back in 2005,” Paris said, referring to when she started her career as a foster parent. “No matter what, he would always call me mama… and I think that was because he knew of the love and support that he was getting from us.”
Observing the playground, built on artificial grass for accessibility, Paris admired the park’s various features and imagined Noel playing there. Among the options for play are a multi-seat seesaw that’s wheelchair accessible, a swing set and a “cozy dome” meant to provide over-stimulated children a calmer, darker place to play which somewhat resembles an igloo.
“It would be very hard to get him to leave this park,” she said.
David Rushing, a business development manager with Whirlix Design Inc. who helped design the playground, highlighted the Rhapsody Vibra Chimes that “really dive into vestibular development of the inner ear that allows kids to understand where they are in space,” he said. Each chime is connected to a mallet that children can use to produce different sounds.
“When we think about inclusive, especially in the playground industry, we really think about all,” he said. “The inclusive part of it is really driving the kids to play together to create social interaction, social development along with physical play, and a lot of fun.”
Everman Mayor Ray Richardson noted how the playground originally started out as a simple addition to Clyde Pittman Park, paid for by Tarrant County community development grant funding and sponsors, but dedicating it to Noel will serve as a reminder that “child abuse in any form or fashion is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”
“Many tears have been shed over the disappearance of Noel. Now it is time to start replacing those tears with happiness and laughter,” he said.
In October, a Tarrant County grand jury indicted Noel’s mother, Cindy Rodriguez-Singh, on one count of capital murder, two counts of injury to a child and one count of abandoning a child without intent to return. Law enforcement officials anticipate the charges will help apprehend Rodriguez-Singh and extradite her from India, where officials said she fled with her husband and six other children when Noel was reported missing.
Noel’s mother is charged with killing him by unknown means, as investigators provided the grand jury with evidence that ruled out any other potential outcomes alongside evidence showing a history of neglect and abuse, officials said.