EDUCATION
10/24/2012 01:37 am ET

Jennifer Caballero, Missing 11-Year-Old Girl With Down Syndrome, Found Dead In Pond Behind Rodgers Middle School In Florida

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is investigating in Florida after the body of a missing 11-year-old girl with Down syndrome was found in a retention pond behind Rodgers Middle School in Riverview, Fla., WFTS-TV reports.

Jennifer Caballero was last seen around 12:30 p.m. Monday in the school gymnasium, where she and her 19 classmates with special needs were having their indoor physical education class. According to the Tampa Tribune, the class was supervised by a teacher and six aides, and there were an additional three teachers present in the gym, where a group of about 150 students played.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that two students told a school employee they had seen Jenny walk out of the gym, initiating a school lock-down and search of the surrounding premises by 75 deputies and volunteers.

Six hours later, divers discovered her body in 12 feet of water about 20 feet from the shoreline of the pond, according to Bloomingdale-Riverview Patch. The pond is separated from school grounds by a four-foot chain-link fence.

According to Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee, the girl’s family said Jennifer, even with a limp, could climb a fence, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Shirley Lawyer, president of the Down Syndrome Network of Tampa Bay, echoed this sentiment.

"She definitely could have climbed the fence," Lawyer said. "A lot of our kids are actually very good escape artists."

She also expressed shock that six adults could not keep watch over 20 students.

The Tampa Bay Times reports the incident is being investigated by the sheriff's office, with deputies interviewing anyone who had contact with Caballero on Monday to determine how the girl left the school undetected.

The district's Office of Professional Standards is waiting for the Sheriff’s office to wrap up its investigation before launching its own inquiry, district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe told the Tampa Tribune.

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