Searchers found the body of a missing 9-year-old San Francisco girl in a creek near her family's Lake County vacation home Wednesday, authorities said.
Mikaela Lynch, who had autism and the mental capacity of a 1-year-old, was last seen in the backyard of the home on Harbor Drive in Clearlake on Sunday around 1:30 p.m. She had been playing on a trampoline with her younger brother but was left alone briefly when he ran inside to avoid a bee, police said.
Her body was found in nearby Cache Creek by dive team members just before noon, said Clearlake Police Chief Craig Clausen. Foul play is not suspected. Clausen said it appears she wandered into the creek.
"It's really tragic," said police Sgt. Nick Bennett, adding that Mikaela was "a sweet little girl. We had hopes it might turn out differently."
Searchers had looked in the marshes near the home because Mikaela, who did not speak but could communicate through basic hand signals, was "attracted to water," police said.
Mike Dowling, Mikaela's godfather, described her as a "sweetheart" with an "ever-present smile."
"She loves running, playing," Dowling said. "Extremely gregarious. Just a great laugh, a fantastic laugh."
According to the National Autism Association, about half of children with autism are prone to wandering away from their homes, and a third cannot communicate their name, address or other helpful information.
Autistic children are also commonly drawn to water. Of those found dead after wandering in recent years, 91 percent had drowned, according to the association.
Mikaela was a student at Sunset Elementary School in San Francisco, district officials said.
Her teacher and six current and former teachers' aides drove up to Clearlake earlier this week to help in the search, said district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.
Counselors were at the school Wednesday to help students needing assistance, and the school is expected to honor Mikaela in the coming days, Blythe said.
"Our heart goes out to the family of Mikaela Lynch," Blythe said in a statement. "The Sunset Elementary community has been eagerly awaiting her safe return and is shocked and saddened by today's news. The principal will be sharing the news with the school community and has assembled a crisis response team that is prepared to respond to the emotional needs of students."
San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Jill Tucker contributed to this story.