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'This can happen to anybody:' 6-year-old with autism dies after found in lake

'This is something that nobody could've prepared for,' neighbors say
Aleenah Fenelus.jpg
Posted at 6:14 PM, Jan 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-12 08:26:34-05

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Hours after searching for a missing 6-year-old girl on the autism spectrum near West Palm Beach, deputies made the heartbreaking discovery, in a body of water behind her home.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said deputies responded to the Timberline neighborhood Tuesday night looking for Aleenah Fenelus.

Her mother told WPTV her daughter was on the autism spectrum and nonverbal and left the home as she went to get her daughter's pajamas during bath time.

"There was just this despair feel in the air and you just knew something happened that wasn’t supposed to," Saranity Delker said.

RELATED: FAU provides services for families with children on autism spectrum

Neighbors joined law enforcement in the two-hour-long search. For Lillian Silva, the incident hits close to home as she also has two young children and lives right on the lake.

"Normally they will not play around the lake. I don't let them," Silva said. "But after this, even more so. That lake is deep, and I'm scared they are going to fall in there."

Down the street, Delker said she is using this incident as a learning lesson for her and her 2-year-old.

"This can happen to anybody," Delker said. "This is a humanly mistake. This is something that nobody could've prepared for, but I think just taking those extra steps; extra locks, whatever it takes, cameras, just so you know what's going on."