Updated at 12:50 a.m., March 13, 2012
LAKEWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Authorities said a southern New Jersey toddler who went missing from her home on Monday afternoon was found dead in a nearby septic tank hours later.
Lakewood police said the 2-year-old, whose name was not released, was found shortly after 8 p.m.
The discovery ended a roughly three-hour search by township police, an Ocean County Sheriff’s Department canine unit and a state police helicopter.
It was not immediately known how the child got into the septic tank or how long she was inside it. Authorities said the girl’s mother, Marina Matias, had reported her missing from their East Spruce Street home at around 4:50 p.m., reports CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.
Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford released the following statement in connection with an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death:
“The search teams found a small approximately 3 foot wide hole in the yard, apparently to a septic tank, and called in the Lakewood Township Public Works Department to pump out the water in the tank. At approximately 7:30 p.m., the water level had been dropped and police and emergency personnel unfortunately made visual observation of the body of a child in that tank.
“At this time, emergency crews are working to carefully remove the body from the tank. The family has been informed and is understandably distraught over this turn of events. Dr. Brodsky of the Ocean County Medical Examiners Office is on the scene for the purposes of examining the body. At this time no pronouncement has been made subject to the ability of Dr. Brodsky to make a medical examination.”
According to the DA, the missing child had been playing in the yard with her four siblings when she apparently fell down the hole into the septic tank. Matias told investigators the family had no idea the septic tank hole was even on the property.
Investigators were still trying to determine who was responsible for the hole.
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)