The 2-year-old was reported missing by her mother, Marina Matias, shortly before 5 p.m. Monday, according to the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, which is investigating.
Matias told police she could not find her child, identified only by the initials J.C., who had been playing in the yard of her East Spruce Street home with her four siblings.
Search teams quickly found a 3-foot-wide hole in the yard that led to a septic tank. The Public Works Department was called in to pump out water in the tank, and at 7:30 p.m., the body of a child was found in it.
The prosecutor is still looking into the circumstances and whether any criminal action contributed to her death.
Many are wondering why the top of the tank was left open.
"It's hard to say, because it's a vacant house," said Michael Stewart, of the Department of Public Works. "Nobody lives there."
Police, medics and public works employees found it overwhelming.
"It was like it was uncovered, a square, about a foot and a half to two foot," Stewart said. "It was uncovered, and it was full of straight human sewage."
Michel A. Paulhus, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office, said there was no reason to believe that there was a major delay in the mother calling police once she realized her daughter was missing.
Get Eyewitness News Delivered