A four-year-old girl has been found dead in Florida after she wandered off from her family’s rental home.
Evelyn Geer was found along a canal, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office said on Friday. The search for the child went on for hours and included the use of bloodhounds and aviation assistance early on Friday morning, the sheriff’s Ooffice said on Facebook.
The search started when the mother of the four-year-old found the front door of the Port Charlotte home open, prompting her to call the emergency services, according to CNN.
In the 911 call, a dispatcher says the mother is “screaming, advising her four-year-old daughter is missing. She found her front door wide open”.
On the call, the mother can be heard saying, “This can’t be happening,” according to WINK.
The sheriff’s office said the child had only been wearing a diaper when she left the home. The family was staying in a home they had rented on VRBO after they were forced out of their home by Hurricane Ian in September, according to the local outlet.
Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office public information officer Claudette Smith said that “Evelyn is on the spectrum. They usually have a deadbolt to keep her inside because we do know that autistic children tend to wander – so they usually have those types of safety measures in place”.
“Because this is not their current residence, they didn’t have that measure,” she added, according to WBBH.
“We are heartbroken to confirm that the body of 4-year-old Evelyn K Geer (2-25-2019) has been discovered along the water edge down the canal behind the VRBO the family was staying in,” The Sheriff’s Office wrote on Facebook at 5.55am on 2 June. “[The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission] located her about an hour ago while searching by boat. Please keep the family in your prayers as they go through this unbearable time.”
Tina Kolman, the child’s grandmother, wrote on a GoFundMe fundraising page that “We lost our most precious shining star today and it is with the heaviest of hearts that I create this account”.
“Forgive me as I am truly at a loss for words,” she added.
A neighbour, Steve Stotler, told WINK that he was “startled” as he was awoken by helicopters in the air at 4am.
“I went out to the street to see what was going on, and that’s when the officer told me they were looking for a 4-year-old girl,” he said.
Another area resident, Linda Kopycai, said that she was woken by officers who wanted to see her security footage.
“It’s the scariest thing to have a cop knock on your door at three in the morning because they never bring good news at three,” she said. “We showed him all the videos that we had.”