CLEARLAKE -- For Ronald and Belan Giles, there was never a question that they would help try to find 9-year-old Mikaela Renee Lynch.
"Other than the hair color, she looks just like my daughter," Belan Giles said as her family headed out to distribute fliers about the missing Clearlake girl. Like Mikaela, the Giles' grown daughter has autism and was prone to wandering off. "I can't fathom what the parents are going through."
Hundreds of volunteers and public safety officers spent Monday scouring Cache Creek and the lakeside neighborhoods in Clearlake, one day after Mikaela disappeared from the yard of her family's Highlands Harbor vacation home.
As of 9:45 p.m., however, searchers had found no sign of the girl and called off the search for the night.
Family members told police the 70-pound, 4-foot child has the mental capacity of a 1-year-old and can't speak, said Clearlake Police Lt. Tim Celli.
"She does like water. The residence does back up to waterways," Celli said. "As far as we know, she does not swim."
"We will keep doing this for as long as necessary," Clearlake Police Chief Craig Clausen said as he stopped for lunch at the search command post, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Bay Street and Lakeview Way, not far from the family home.
Mikaela was last seen on Mother's Day in the fenced backyard where she had been jumping on a trampoline and playing with her younger brother. He apparently ran inside after being chased by a bee and she was alone for an unknown period, Celli said.
The parents, who were inside the house, called for help at about 1:30 p.m.
Police believe Mikaela is naked and shoeless. They were told she often removed her clothes when she became hot. Police found articles of clothing in the yard.
The girl also typically wore a diaper.
"Canines have led to a diaper we believe the child was wearing at some point, located near the waterway at least one house away," Celli said.
The scent trail seemed to end there, he said.
"We're hoping for the best. This was a terrible tragedy to have a child go missing, especially on Mother's Day," Celli said. "We're doing all we can."
The Harbor Lane house backs up to the murky waters of Cache Creek, which flows out of Clear Lake and runs as deep as 11 feet. Officials requested the releases from a Cache Creek dam be stopped Sunday to reduce water flow. If the girl was in the water, that would help keep her from being swept farther downstream, officials said.
Conditions in Cache Creek were difficult, with little visibility and lots of debris along the bottom, said Sheriff's Sgt. Don McPherson, who was coordinating the water search.
Four divers were working nearly blind, searching the bottom by hand at locations identified by dogs trained to detect the scent of human bodies under the water. The dogs had given several alerts, but as of mid-afternoon, divers had found nothing.
Five boats were combing the creek, focusing on the area downstream from the family's home. McPherson said the search is not expected to spread to the waters of Clear Lake itself, since that is well upstream and it seems unlikely Mikaela could have traveled that far.