Arthur Morgan III remained at large despite a dragnet involving 13 law enforcement agencies including the FBI. Authorities believe the 27-year-old Morgan, of Ocean Township, may have left the state.
The victim, Tierra Morgan, lived in Lakehurst with her mother and was having a court-approved visit with her father on Monday, but he never took her back. The girl's body was discovered Tuesday in Wall Township, about 20 miles north of where she lived.
The toddler was discovered by children playing in Shark River Park, said Christopher Gramiccioni, a spokesman for the Monmouth County prosecutor's office. The children notified park rangers, who called police.
A 911 call was received by police at 2:28 p.m., saying that "student-aged children came across what they were concerned was a child in the creek," Gramiccioni said.
Police found the girl's body, still strapped in the car seat, partly submerged in the creek, a tributary of the nearby Shark River. The creek is 3 to 7 feet deep in the area where the body was found, near a roadway overpass about 15 feet above the creek.
A warrant from Ocean County charging Morgan with child endangerment and interference with custody had been issued before the girl's body was found.
Transit police agencies, including NJ Transit, Amtrak and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, were assisting the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service in a search that included train and bus stations, airports, highway bridges and tunnels.