An autopsy of a 2-year-old Lakewood girl found in a septic tank Monday showed that accidental drowning was the cause of death, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office reported Tuesday afternoon.
There was no sign of foul play or trauma, according to Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford.
Prosecutors will continue to investigate the incident to rule out any criminal action that could have contributed to the death, Ford said.
The autopsy was conducted by Ian Hood, who has served as chief medical examiner for Burlington County.
At the conclusion of the investigation, Ford said, prosecutors will share their conclusions with the Child Fatality Review Board, which independently evaluates the circumstances of an unattended child fatality.
“I would like to thank the many members of law enforcement, the volunteer and compensated emergency services, the State Police and members of the public for their speedy response to this emergency," Ford said. "I know we all mourn the loss of this innocent little girl.”
Tuesday where the 2-year-old girl, only known as J.C., was found dead at the bottom of a septic tank last night as prosecutors continued to investigate the tragedy.
Tape labeled "Crime Scene/Do Not Cross" blocked off a vacant house where children's toys sat in the yard, as police and media descended on the scene.
The girl's mother, Marina Matias, called police at 4:49 p.m. to report her child was missing. Police and emergency service personnel went to the East Spruce Street home and began searching for the little girl, Ford said.
The mother was inside the house tending to a 2-month-old baby while her four other children played in the backyard, Ford told Patch late Monday night.
The mother spent about 20 minutes frantically searching for the child, then called police, said Ford.
The search teams found a 3-foot wide hole in the yard, apparently leading to an uncovered septic tank. Lakewood Public Works was called in to pump out the water in the tank, Ford said.
"At approximately 7:30 p.m., the water level had been dropped and police and emergency personnel unfortunately made visual observation of the body of a child in that tank," she said.
Emergency crews were able to remove the child's body from the septic tank at 10:33 p.m., Ford said.
"It was a difficult process to try and bring the body out," she said.
The child was pronounced dead at the scene by the Ocean County Medical Examiner, Ford said.
Ford said it was unclear whether the family knew the hole was in the backyard, or if the uncovered septic tank was operational.
"I don't have the answers," Ford said. "Obviously we haven't been able to interview the family."
The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office and the Lakewood Police Department are conducting the investigation, she said.
"We all join in expressing our sympathy to the family of this child," Ford said. "I ask that the media be respectful of their privacy at this time."
Anyone with any information should call Detective Sgt. Carlos Trujillotovar at the Prosecutor's Office at 732-929-2027.