ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Royal Palm Beach middle school student who was missing since Wednesday was found dead during the evening hours on Christmas Day.
The body of the 14-year-old boy was found in a retention pond near Crestwood Middle School and the Royal Palm Beach recreation center at the intersection of Sparrow Drive and Sweet Bay Lane, the Palm Beach School District said. The circumstances on how he died have not been released.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office identified the boy as Vensly Maxime, 14, of Royal Palm Beach.
He had last been seen in the area of the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center on Wednesday. Maxime was in the eighth grade at Crestwood Middle School.
The search continues for missing teenager, Vensly Maxime, who was last seen near the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center on December 22. Report tips to 561-434-8700 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-485-TIPS. pic.twitter.com/P5LrdzqID3— The School District of Palm Beach County (@pbcsd) December 24, 2021
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Deputies are investigating, and crime scene tape blocked the entrance of the recreation center.
According to PBSO there were no obvious signs of any injury or trauma to Maxime.
The sheriff’s office chaplain, grief counselors and school board members were on scene to comfort the family.
“Today I worked with the family on Christmas day to have hope that we would find our student," District 6 Board Member Marcia Andrews said. We got the news this afternoon that he had been found in the canal and he had passed away. We are praying for the family and praying for our student who is in heaven now. It was just a bad situation, and the family is devastated.
She added, " We are out here at the school, at the canal, retrieving his body and so much sadness on Christmas. We have sympathy for the family and for all the students at the school here at Crestwood. We will do our best to get through this.”
Andrews said once school returns, grief counselors will be at the school.
As they stood at the memorial growing in front of Crestwood Middle School on Monday, Maxime’s family struggled with many emotions.
"I'm not OK. I probably will never be OK because somebody killed my little cousin," said Dian Eliance.
Eliance said the family believes someone is responsible for Maxime’s death.
"We all want to know who did it. We all want to know why," Eliance said.
Family members are also upset over what they said has been a lack of response to their first reports of Maxime’s disappearance last Wednesday. Family members said they were largely out on their own to look for the teen, until they found him Christmas day in shallow water.
"We don’t get full information. We looking for information and guess what? We find out the body, we have to come on Christmas day we find our own body by the rec center and the lake we find him my husband, my brother in law my sister in law they find him and this is not good," Eliance said.
PBSO said they along with the school police were part of the investigation and PBSO by Thursday had as many as six uniformed personnel and a school detective searching along with drones, a helicopter, and a search and rescue dog.
The news of the boy’s death has left a layer of sadness among the middle school community, with both students and parents coming to the memorial on Sparrow Drive.
Family members said the teen was very excited about Christmas and they are also dispute any suggestion the boy may have killed himself just steps from his school.