Seventy-five Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies spent five hours yesterday, Oct. 22, searching by foot with K9 dogs, horse, all-terrain vehicle, helicopter and in the water for 11-year-old Jenny Caballero of Riverview.
Now they're searching for answers.
Sheriff's investigators were back at Rodgers Middle School this morning, Oct. 23, trying to determine how the little girl with Down syndrome walked away unnoticed from the school, climbed a 4-foot-high fence and ended up in a pond where she drowned.
Hillsborough County School District Superintendent Mary Ellen Elia said the school district is fully cooperating with the investigation.
"We need to have that answer," said Elia in a press conference following the discovery of the girl's body. "It is a very critical question."
- See Students Mourn Jenny Caballero
At the time she disappeared, at about 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 22, she was in a class in the school gymnasiumm with 20 other special-needs students where they were supervised by a teacher and six aides.
They didn't noticed the girl slipping away. Nor could her supervisors explain how the little girl managed to get over the fence and into the pond behind the school at 11910 Tucker Rd.
The teacher was alerted when another student reported seeing Jenny leave the gym.
School staff quickly began searching in and around the school, checking lockers, bathrooms and classrooms. When they couldn't locate Jenny, they notified the sheriff's office.
Sheriff's divers discovered her body in 12 feet of water about 20 feet from the shoreline of the pond. The pond was a couple of hundred yards from the school gymnasium.
"I can't even begin to tell you how sad it is,'' said Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee.
According to school district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe, Jenny had attended Rodgers Middle School just six weeks. Cobbe said, earlier in the day, the little girl had been found hiding beneath some bleachers. Gee said Jenny would often hide when frightened.
Although it appears that the little girl drowned, Gee said a dive team will continue searching the pond today for evidence.
Investigators also will try to determine how Jenny managed to leave the gym without anyone noticing.
"I think that is a question that obviously we have to get answers to and that's exactly what we're going to be doing,” said Elia. "Obviously, this is something that we feel terrible over as a school district. I, as a superintendent, and the staff here, we cannot do anything to change what occurred but we have to do a full investigation so we can all understand this."
Crisis counselors also were on hand at the school today to speak with students and staff.