Investigators seek couple that might have seen missing girl

ROCKERVILLE, S.D. (KEVN TV) - Investigators want to speak with a couple who reportedly last saw missing 9-year-old Serenity Dennard near the Children’s Home Society Sunday.

The couple, according to the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, was cutting wood around Foster Gulch and South Rockerville Road. They spoke with Children’s Home staff Sunday around the same time that the girl ran away from the home.

Deputies want to talk with the man and woman to get a better idea on the timeline of Dennard’s disappearance and the direction she was going. The couple is described as being in their late 20s or early 30s, driving a pickup truck.

More than 65 people and four dogs continue searching the area around the Children’s Home.

The sheriff’s office asks that people in the Rockerville and Highway 16 area search their outbuildings and property. If anyone has seen or had contact with Serenity Dennard, contact the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office at (605) 394-6115.

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For the second day, search and rescue teams are scouring the Black Hills for a missing 9-year-old girl.

Serenity Dennard went missing from the Children's Home Society near Rockerville late Sunday morning.

Monday, at 6 a.m about 60 search and rescue crew members accompanied with several dogs resumed the search on and around Rockerville Road.

Children's Home Society Executive Director Bill Colson, said Dennard was last seen playing with three other children in the gym when she ran out of the school.

Two staffers were watching the children. One teacher was preoccupied with two children while the other teacher was chasing after another child in the gym, according to Colson. The staffers could not catch up to Dennard as she ran across Rockerville Road and into the hills.

"I don't remember another situation like this one where a child has been gone this long," Colson said.

Colson said normally one staffer monitors six children.

Pennington County Search and Rescue Team Leader Tammy Stardel, said the cold weather is affecting the search. Stardel said between the steep terrain and the ice buildup in some areas, the team is struggling to move around and find any evidence. The snow is making it difficult for the crew to find tracks and for dogs to pick up a scent.

Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom said the clear skies on Monday allows the Civil Air Patrol to search by air.

A missing and endangered alert was issued Monday. Some people questioned why no Amber Alert was issued earlier. The Amber Alert wasn't issued because this incident doesn't fit the criteria:

• The request to declare an Amber Alert must come from a Law Enforcement Agency.
• There must be credible evidence that a child under 18 years old has been abducted.
• There must be evidence that the child is in danger of bodily harm or death.
• There must be enough credible and useful information from eyewitnesses or other sources that could assist in the safe recovery of the child and arrest of the suspect.

Thom said investigators are working with the family in Sturgis. The sheriff's office checked with nearby neighbors to see if they have seen Dennard. Thom advises nearby residents to check hay or wood piles to see if she is hiding to stay warm.

Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris says "If this were to go on, unresolved, she's not located, the investigation will remain a priority until she is located."

Original story

More resources are being poured into the search for a 9-year-old girl who went missing Sunday from the Children’s Home Society on South Rockerville Road.

The Civil Air Patrol joined the search by air and ground when efforts resumed at 7 a.m. Monday.

Pennington County deputies, Pennington County Search and Rescue, Custer County Search and Rescue, Rockerville Volunteer Fire Department, Rapid City Fire Department and at least three dogs searched the area until 10 p.m. Sunday. Searchers used hand-held thermal imaging devices. Deputies stayed all night patrolling the area.

Serenity Dennard was last seen at 11:20 a.m. at the Children’s home. She is a Caucasian female, 4 feet 7 inches tall, weighing 90 pounds; with blue eyes and shoulder length dirty blonde hair. She was last seen wearing only a long sleeved grey shirt with flowers, blue jeans and snow boots.

In a release, the sheriff’s office stated that the public offers to help are appreciation; however, the search needs to be done by professional search and rescue crews.

“We encourage anyone living in the Rockerville and Highway 16 area to search their outbuildings and property,” the release stated. If anyone has seen or had contact with Serenity Dennard, contact the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office at (605) 394-6115.