A four-year-old child who was last seen more than a year ago has been found dead, and the girl's mother and her boyfriend have been arrested and charged with her murder.
Kentucky State Police said detectives found the body of Serenity McKinney in a wooded area near the Indiana border at about 2 p.m. on Friday.
Serenity's mother, Catherine McKinney, 21, and her boyfriend, Dakota Hill, 26, both of Shepherdsville, Kentucky, have been charged with murder and abuse of a corpse, state police announced in a news release Saturday.
Serenity's Grandparents Reported Her Missing After Catherine 'Cut Them Off'
Serenity's grandparents say Catherine McKinney cut them off in the fall and they reported the child missing last month after a year of angst. They last saw the child on Christmas Eve 2020.
"This is out of her character," step-grandmother Aundrea Wainscott told WHAS. "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 Catherine McKinney, she refused to cooperateâand then she and Hill allegedly skipped town. The couple were subsequently arrested in Kansas on Feb. 6 on charges of custodial interference before being extradited to Kentucky.
Serenity's official cause of death is not yet known. An autopsy took place on Saturday morning, February 19, but the results have not been released.
'I Know Someone Who Knows Where Your Daughter Is'
Days before her body was discovered, Serenity's father, Dave Justice, received a message from an unidentified person claiming to know where his daughter was. "I know someone who knows where your daughter is," the first message read, in screenshots obtained by The Sun.
His second message was, "From what I kno, she's in a suitcase." Justice then informed the Shelby County Sheriff's Office about the interaction.
"It was the worst thing anyone could possibly hear in my shoes," Justice said. "I think it is an account being used kind of as like a patsy for the real person, but I can't say who it is for sure, but I believe she knows who has her." He noted that the sender was a woman. However, it is not clear if Serenity's body was really found in a suitcase. Generally, abuse of a corpse is when a body was moved or hidden or tampered with.