Family blames school for girl's death - FOX 13 News

Family blames school for girl's death

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A grieving family is looking for answers after an 11-year-old girl with Down Syndrome wandered away from her school and drowned in a retention pond.

It happened last Monday at Rodgers Middle School in Riverview.

Jenny Caballero has been laid to rest. Now her family, the school and investigators are all focused on why her death happened and what could have been done to prevent it.

Jenny was the youngest of Elizabeth and Tarciscio Caballero's three daughters. Her smile radiates throughout the family's home -- large photos grace every wall, capturing the essence of the 11 year old.

Her mom says she gave them all a reason to live.

"She brightened this house like the sun, she was the most beautiful thing here, she was the joy of this house," Elizabeth Caballero said Wednesday, speaking to us in Spanish through an interpreter.

Elizabeth says Jenny loved school.

"In the morning, when I got her ready, she would get on the bus. She loved school and she would leave for school so happy. She would leave so happy for school, it was something she loved," Elizabeth said.

That's why she can't understand why Jenny would leave the gym. Her mom says she never wandered off before.

"She never went missing, no never! This had never happened. This is the first time it happened, and my daughter never returned," she said.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is investigating. Detectives are interviewing some of the aides and teachers who were in the gym. Hillsborough schools superintendent Mary Ellen Elia met with Sheriff David Gee Wednesday. Elia said the school district is awaiting the results of the sheriff's investigation.

Jenny's mom says she believes the workers at the school are responsible.

"Nothing would have happened to my little girl if they had done their job right," Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth is angry. She says a friend of Jenny's told her he noticed Jenny missing and alerted teachers. But she says the child told her that no one listened immediately.

The family says they are desperate for answers.

"No one can imagine. Words cannot explain. I can't explain what I feel, but the loss of my daughter hurts me very much," she said.

Her family says their girl loved bright colors, like fuchsia and blue. They say there was never a shortage of hugs and kisses from her.

"We always tried to give her the best that we could give her and love? She never went without it. We gave her so much love and she gave us love and so much more to us," Elizabeth said.

The Caballeros say they haven't been contacted by the school district with information, but they say the district did call last Wednesday to drop off cards and teddy bears.

The sheriff's office says they hope to have interviews at Jenny's school wrapped up by the end of the week.

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