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A 4-year-old was found dead along a canal after going missing from family’s Florida rental home

<i>Charlotte County Sheriff's Office</i><br/>Evelyn K. Geer
Charlotte County Sheriff's Office
Evelyn K. Geer

By Rebekah Riess and Alaa Elassar, CNN

(CNN) — A 4-year-old girl, who wandered away from the Florida rental home her family had been staying in, has been found dead in a canal along the water’s edge, the sheriff’s office announced Friday.

Deputies had been searching extensively for Evelyn K. Geer for several hours using bloodhounds and aviation assistance in the early morning Friday, Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.

The search began after Evelyn’s mother found the front door of the home in Port Charlotte open and called 911.

“She’s screaming, advising her 4-year-old daughter is missing. She found her front door wide open,” the dispatcher says in the 911 call audio released by the sheriff’s office and obtained by CNN affiliate WINK. “This can’t be happening,” the mother can be heard saying on the call.

The child had gone missing wearing only a diaper, the sheriff’s office said.

The family was staying in a VRBO rental home after being displaced from their home by Hurricane Ian in September, CNN affiliate WINK reported. Evelyn had autism, WINK reported, and her family usually had a deadbolt lock on their door but the rental did not have one.

“We are heartbroken to confirm that the body of 4-year-old Evelyn K. Geer (…) has been discovered along the water edge down the canal behind the VRBO the family was staying in,” the sheriff’s office announced early Friday morning.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found the girl’s body while searching by boat, the update said.

“Please keep the family in your prayers as they go through this unbearable time,” the sheriff’s office added.

Evelyn’s grandmother, Tina Kolman, launched a GoFundMe to raise money for the girl’s funeral expenses.

“We lost our most precious shining star today and it is with the heaviest of hearts that I create this account,” Kolman wrote on the GoFundMe. “Forgive me as I am truly at a loss for words.”

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