The mother of a 4-year-old Kentucky girl who was missing for over a year has been charged with murder after the child’s body was found in the woods, police said.
Serenity Ann McKinney had not been seen by extended family members since Christmas Eve 2020, according to Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.
She was located by Kentucky State Police in a wooded area in West Point near the Indiana border Friday afternoon. Her official cause of death has not been revealed, pending an autopsy.
Serenity’s biological mother, 21-year-old Catherine McKinney, and her 26-year-old boyfriend Dakota Hill, were each charged with murder and abuse of a corpse on Saturday.
McKinney’s father and stepmother said that she had cut off all communication with her family last fall, WHAS reported. They filed a missing persons report for Serenity on Jan. 31.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced on Feb. 3 that the AG’s Special Victims Unit would partner with local law enforcement and the US Secret Service to investigate.
McKinney and Hill, both from Shepherdsville, were arrested in Kansas on Feb. 6 on charges of custodial interference. Serenity was not with them when they were taken into custody. It’s unclear why the couple was in Kansas.
McKinney pleaded the fifth when she was asked where her daughter was, according to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.
Family members had passed out flyers with Serenity’s face and held prayer vigils in the weeks before her body was found.
Both are being held at the Shelby County Detention Center.
“It’s just absolutely heart-wrenching. It’s tough,” Kentucky State Police Trooper Scotty Sharp told WDRB.
“Obviously, it’s tragic,” Sharp said. “And we hoped it turned out better, but everybody gave their 110%, and one way or another, we wanted to find out what happened to Serenity.”