I-Team: New recordings shed light on search for missing child

Frantic search spanned more than five hours

The I-Team has obtained exclusive audio communication from the Hillsborough County Sherrif's Office which shows what took place during the frantic search for 11-year old Jennifer Caballero.  Caballero drowned in October after vanishing during a gym class at Rodgers Middle School.

"She ran from the gymnasium," one searcher says.

The first HCSO transmissions begin at 1pm, approximately 20 minutes after Caballero went missing.

"We're going to start a room by room search of every building," another deputy says.

Jennifer had Down Syndrome, and searchers believed she may have been hiding inside the school. But the search turned up no trace of her.

"Every building, every room, negative," an HCSO deputy reports.

At 2pm, HCSO reports indicate the first search dogs were called in. Searchers on foot had checked a nearby retention pond and did not see any sign of footprints, but at 2:55pm, the dive team was called in.

"I'm concerned she has a fondness for the water. She does not know how to swim,"

According to HCSO reports and the audio communications, deputies talked to neighbors, checked other area schools and businesses, searched the nearby woods, and had a helicopter up in the air. One student believed he saw Caballero get into a red van earlier in the day, but the tip did not develop into a solid lead. Several hours of searching still turned up nothing.

"Make your perimeter wider and wider. She's got to be out there somewhere," an HCSO officer can be heard saying.

According to a report, at approximately 4:40pm, Jennifer's mother used the school intercom to try and coax her daughter to come out of hiding.

It wasn't until 6:10pm, five and a half hours after Jennifer first went missing, that divers found Jennifer's body in the retention pond.

The aides in charge of watching Jennifer during the gym class have been suspended pending a school investigation.

The I-Team has also learned one coach raised a red flag just 6 days before Jennifer's death, complaining to an assistant principal that aides weren't being attentive enough.

Print this article Back to Top