The search couldn't have been more urgent. Jenny Caballero, just 10 years old, had Down syndrome. She had trouble speaking. And she was gone -- vanished from class.
Investigators finally found her at the bottom of a pond, just yards from the gymnasium where she disappeared. Her family and everyone else at the school is devastated.
"Yeah, they are and all of us are. But they are doing as well as they can right now. I'll tell you, it's a terribly sad situation that we find ourselves in," said Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee, choking back tears.
Students on Tuesday wrote letters and brought cards to school for Jenny, but there are few answers right now as to how this could have happened. And the sheriff's office is working to find that out.
School officials say there were six aides supervising Jenny and about 20 other special needs students. They were in the gym for P.E. class with other, mainstream students when she disappeared. In all, there were about 140 in the gym.
"There were quite a few students. They were playing basketball and some of the students came up to the coach, the teacher and told him they saw her run out a door. Now, I think they're trying to figure out the time between when they saw her run out, and when they reported it," said Linda Cobbe of Hillsborough County Schools.
Investigators say Jenny was new to the school. She'd only been there about six weeks and there were concerns about how she was adjusting. At least one or more of the aides were worried she might try to walk out.
"During one of the classes it was reported to us that she had been very shy during the class and had kind of stood behind the bleachers and one of the aides had made note of that in the class so she caught the attention of some of the aides today," said Sheriff Gee.
The Hillsborough Sheriff's Office was called about 1 o'clock and immediately started searching. Dozens of deputies combed the school grounds along with K-9's, helicopters and Jenny's parents. But because she was so afraid of strangers, they were hoping she might still be at the school hiding somewhere.
"I know that the mom went on the intercom and appealed to her in case she was still in the school in Spanish, but she didn't turn up after that," continued Cobbe.
Ultimately, it was the dive team that found Jenny in the deep end of the pond. Investigators say there is a fence around it, but it's only four feet high, still low enough for Jenny to climb over.
"I know we had issues of supervision and all of that. I don't have the answers to those questions yet. That will certainly be part of our investigation and be out here throughout the night and we'll be diving these ponds again tomorrow," added Sheriff Gee.
Tuesday morning the school principal made an announcement to the school, and students returned. Cobbe said grief counselors were made available if needed.
She also said detectives were on scene interviewing teachers and students who were there.
She said the school district is doing everything they can to help in the investigation, as they try and determine what happened.
Right now, she said, it's just too early to tell.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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