Florida K-9 Unit Finds Missing 11-Year-Old Girl In Park Bathroom

 January 29, 2024

A Florida K-9 unit demonstrated exceptional skill and collaboration in the successful rescue of a missing 11-year-old girl.

The incident began on a tense Friday evening, with Hillsborough County Sheriff's Deputy Sarah Ernstes and K-9 Mary Lu responding to a distressing report. An 11-year-old girl had gone missing in the area of Carlton Lake Drive, sparking immediate concern and action from the local authorities.

The entire ordeal, from the initial disappearance to the eventual rescue, highlights the invaluable role of K-9 units in law enforcement and community safety.

Tracing the Missing Child: K-9 Mary Lu's Key Role

Deputy Ernstes and her four-legged partner, Mary Lu, began their search at about 8 p.m., meticulously combing the area. The duo's first clue surfaced when they tracked the girl to a neighbor's house nearby. It was discovered that the residents, to help, had given the girl a ride to a nearby apartment complex in Wimauma.

With this new information, the focus of the search shifted to the Wimauma apartment complex. It was here that K-9 Mary Lu's skills shone brightly as she led the deputies to a park in the vicinity, homing in on a crucial lead.

Upon arriving at the park, a significant breakthrough occurred. K-9 Mary Lu, with her acute senses, alerted the deputies to a locked bathroom door. This pivotal moment steered the search in the right direction, as it was in this very bathroom that the missing girl was found.

Safe Return: A Testament to Teamwork and Dedication

The deputies faced a delicate situation with the girl locked inside the bathroom. However, they convinced her to unlock the door through careful and compassionate communication. This crucial interaction underscored the importance of empathy and understanding in law enforcement's approach to sensitive situations.

Finding the girl safe and unharmed was a profound relief for everyone involved. It was a testament to the perseverance and dedication of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and, in particular, the K-9 unit.

Sheriff Chad Chronister expressed his pride and gratitude towards his team in a news release. He highlighted the indispensable role of the K-9 unit, emphasizing their exceptional skills and unwavering commitment to community service. Sheriff Chronister's words reflected a deep appreciation for the bond between law enforcement and their K-9 companions.

Our team HCSO K9 Unit has once again proven its invaluable role in our community. With their exceptional skills, they successfully located and brought home a missing 11-year-old girl, reuniting her safely with her family. I couldn't be prouder of our team's commitment to service and determination to protect and serve.

The successful rescue of the missing girl is a heartwarming reminder of the vital role that K-9 units play in law enforcement. Their unique abilities, coupled with the dedication of their handlers, create a formidable team capable of confronting challenging situations.


This event highlights the strong partnership between law enforcement, their K-9 counterparts, and the communities they protect. It's a story that emphasizes the expertise and commitment of first responders, as well as the resilience and solidarity of communities during crises.

  • The incident started with the disappearance of an 11-year-old girl in the Hillsborough County area.
  • Deputy Sarah Ernstes and K-9 Mary Lu were pivotal in the search and rescue operation.
  • Through diligent tracking and investigation, the team traced the girl to a locked bathroom in a nearby park.
  • The successful negotiation and rescue of the girl underscored the importance of empathy in law enforcement.
  • Sheriff Chad Chronister praised the K-9 unit for their exceptional skills and commitment to community service.
  • This event highlights the vital role of K-9 units and community cooperation in ensuring public safety.

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