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Mother and her boyfriend charged with murder after police find body of missing 4-year-old

Catherine McKinney, mother of 4-year-old Serenity Ann McKinney, and Dakota Hill were booked in...
Catherine McKinney, mother of 4-year-old Serenity Ann McKinney, and Dakota Hill were booked in the Thomas County Jail in Colby, Kansas on Sunday, according to jail documents.(Shelby County Sheriff's Office/Thomas County Jail)
Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 9:01 PM EST
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SHEPHERDSVILLE, Ky. (WAVE/Gray News) - The mother of a 4-year-old Kentucky girl and her boyfriend have been charged with her murder after the child’s body was found over the weekend.

In addition to murder, Catherine Abigail McKinney, 21, and Dakota Hugh Hill, 26, both of Shepherdsville, Kentucky, are charged with abuse of a corpse. They are being held in the Shelby County Detention Center in Shelbyville, Kentucky, according to WAVE News.

Serenity McKinney was last seen in December 2020, and was reported missing on Jan. 31 by her grandparents.

Kentucky State Police said Serenity’s body was found Feb. 18 in a wooded area near the Jefferson-Bullitt County line, around 20 miles west of where the couple lived.

“We hoped that this would have a better outcome, that we would find Serenity alive,” KSP Trooper Scotty Sharp said. “That’s what we wanted. That’s what we prayed for.”

McKinney and Hill were both arrested last week in Kansas and extradited to Kentucky to face charges.

Pam Darnall, the CEO and President of Family and Children’s Place, said it’s more common for children Serenity’s age and younger to die from child abuse or neglect because they’re not able to speak up for themselves.

While police have not indicated whether Serenity was abused prior to her death, Darnall said it’s important adults know the signs just in case, including bruising on the torso, neck, or ears, and changes in behavior.

“Sometimes (in general) what we hear when children die as a result of abuse or neglect, sometimes what we hear is someone who was close to that family say, ‘Well gosh, now that I think about it I do remember something that looking back could’ve been an indicator (of abuse),’” Darnall said.

Adults in Kentucky and Indiana are required by law to report suspected child abuse even if they are not certain it is occurring or do not have all of the facts about the child’s situation.

“You may not be the only person making the call, but if others are making the call about suspicions, piecing it all together could be what really helps that child,” Darnall said. “You don’t have to have all the information.”

Serenity’s family launched a GoFundMe to cover her funeral costs and legal expenses.

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