Catherine McKinney & Dakota Hill charged in death of 4 year old Kentucky girl who had been missing for more than a year. Cause and manner of death not released.
Bitter closure… The body of a 4 year old Kentucky girl missing for more than a year and has been found in woodlands. Authorities have charged the girl’s mother and her live-in boyfriend with the child’s murder.
Serenity Ann McKinney‘s remains were found Friday in brush along a winding road lined by woods in West Point, KY, after her disappearance on December 24 of 2020 had confounded Kentucky State police for nearly 14 months.
Serenity was not reported missing until more than a year later, by her grandparents, in January, after the girl’s mother, Catherine ‘Abby’ McKinney skipped town, forgoing contact with other family members and refusing to cooperate with police and the issuing of a warrant for her and her 26 year old live in boyfriend, Dakota Hill‘s arrest.
Serenity was last seen at the family’s home in Shelby County – about an hour from the section of road where she was discovered.
Authorities have not disclosed the manner and cause of the child’s death the Courier Journal reported.
Mom and boyfriend cut off all family contact
Serenity’s grandparents say McKinney cut off contact with them in the fall, telling them Serenity was ok despite family members having no contact with the child over the past year, spurring them to report her missing last month.
‘This is out of her character,’ step-grandmother Aundrea Wainscott told WHAS earlier this month. ‘She had gotten back in contact with us through messenger, pretty much saying they’re OK, but still wouldn’t let us talk to Serenity or show us Serenity.’
Police say that when they contacted McKinney, she refused to cooperate and left the family’s Shelby County home earlier this year.
McKinney and Hill went to live with a friend who previously said the mother arrived with two black eyes and a swollen face. The couple stayed with Keahna Paige Green and her boyfriend from July 2021 to September 2021 before leaving to another undisclosed address.
— Justice (@ju3ticeforgabby) February 19, 2022
Suspected abuse and neglect
Prior to the couple leaving town, Shelby County Sherrif’s Office ‘learned of reports of suspected abuse and neglect by the defendant and co-defendant,” according to an arrest warrant.
‘An emergency custody order was served on the defendant, and she refused to produce the child or the location for the child. According to the order, the child is to be placed into state custody pending the investigation.’
A judge ordered Serenity’s mother to produce the child. When she did not, the 21 year old mother and boyfriend Dakota Hill, 26, fled before their eventual arrest in Kansas last week, where they were booked on charges of custodial interference.
Bitter closure in case that baffled authorities
The couple were extradited to Kentucky where they had been scheduled to face charges against them when Kentucky State Troopers announced on Friday the discovery of the missing 4 year old girl’s body.
The mother and boyfriend now face charges of murder and abuse of a corpse.
‘It’s just absolutely heart wrenching. It’s tough,’ Kentucky State Police Trooper Scotty Sharp told WDRB of the discovery.
The officer added that crimes such as the one allegedly committed by McKinney and Hill take an ’emotional toll’ on officers and investigators, as well as victims’ family.
‘Obviously, it’s tragic,’ Sharp said. ‘And we hoped it turned out better, but everybody gave their 110 percent, and one way or another, we wanted to find out what happened to Serenity.’
Serenity’s body was transferred by the Bullitt County Coroner’s Office to the Kentucky Medical Examiners Office in Louisville for an autopsy that took place Saturday morning. The results have not yet been released.
‘From what I kno, she’s in a suitcase,’
Days before police’s discovery of the body, the girl’s father, Dave Justice, reportedly received text messages from an unidentified source saying that they knew where Serenity was, cryptically claiming that she was in a suitcase, the Sun reported.
‘I know someone who knows where your daughter is,’ the first unprompted message read.
Justice proceeded to question the unidentified tipster, threatening to get police involved and trying to call the number to no avail, who then responded with a typo-laden declaration as to Serenity’s whereabouts.
‘From what I kno, she’s in a suitcase,’ the sender’s second message read.
Justice told the paper of the exchange Friday – the day his daughter was discovered – ‘I just want my baby girl home.’
At the time, he did not know police had recovered his daughter’s body.
‘It was the worst thing anyone could possibly hear in my shoes,’ Justice said, noting that the sender was a woman. ‘She messaged me again 12 hours later still harassing me.’
‘I think it is an account being used kind of as like a patsy for the real person, but I cant say who it is for sure, but I believe she knows who has her.’
Justice reported the strange interaction to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, which has been leading the investigation.
It is currently not clear if police found Serenity’s body in a suitcase, as the unidentified informant claimed. The Shelby County Sheriff’s office has not publicly responded to such claims.
The details surrounding Serenity’s disappearance and death are currently under investigation.