Mikaela Lynch, the 9-year-old severely autistic girl who had gone missing from her family's yard on Mother's Day, has been found. She was reportedly found drowned in a lake near the family home in Clearlake, California. It took divers several days to find her due to the dark, muddy waters of the lake in which her body was recovered. Police said they do not suspect foul play. Her parents have not yet made a statement, but I can only imagine their devastation. The girl, who could not speak and was said to have the mental abilities of a 1-year-old, had run off after she was playing in the enclosed yard with her younger brother.
Hundreds of volunteers who had been desperately searching for Mikaela were told the bad news as they showed up to continue the search. Said a local man, Fred Cox, to the Press Democrat when he showed up for the search that was no longer needed:
We just wanted to find that baby and bring some peace to the family. It's going to hurt. It's going to hurt real bad.
Mikaela had bolted from the fenced-in yard while her younger brother, who is 8, had gone inside the house after being chased by a bee, leaving Mikaela alone. Video from a nearby surveillance cam then showed the girl running up the street naked. Her clothes were found in the yard and the diaper she wore was near the lake where she was found. She was prone to take both off when she was hot.
Mikaela was unable to swim, and because she was non-verbal, she didn't respond to searchers. Some people familiar with autistic children have said they tend to be drawn to water, and her family also said she enjoyed water.
Questions have been raised about how long the girl was left without adult supervision -- even why she was left without it at all. But from what I've heard, autistic children, like most children, can be extremely fast. Perhaps more could have been done to make sure the girl couldn't get out of the yard, or couldn't get out without the adults being notified, but hindsight is always 20/20. I can't imagine what parents of children with severe difficulties must have to deal with on a daily basis. I won't judge anyone who has to go through that and I hope others won't either. I think sometimes we all forget tragedies can happen to the best of us, just in the blink of an eye. The parents need our compassion right now, not our judgment. Just as you someday may need compassion too.
Is there anything you can say to offer support to Mikaela's parents at this time?
Image via Clearlake Police Dept.