Big weekend push to find missing girl ends without breakthrough

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ROCKERVILLE, S.D. (KOTA TV) -- A massive weekend effort to find a 9-year old girl missing in the rugged Black Hills terrain for a week ended Sunday without a breakthrough -- and searchers say the only thing they can do now is wait for a break in the weather that doesn't seem to be in the forecast.

The weekend dawned with hope and optimism. The Pennington County Sheriff's office mobilized a huge effort to find Serenity Dennard, the ninety pound girl who ran off from the Black Hills Children's Home last Sunday.

Seven specialty dog teams -- many from out of state -- combed the woods and deputies surveyed the territory form a helicopter. But by late Sunday afternoon, a sober reality was sinking in as authorities wound down the big weekend push.

"This is very tough," said Chief Deputy Pennington County Sheriff Willie Whelchel. "Everybody that's been involved, that's been out searching, obviously it becomes personal. It's an emotional thing. The longer it goes on it gets harder and harder. Everyone wants to bring Serenity home. If she is up in the woods we want to find her and bring closure to all this."

The out of town dog teams headed home Sunday after a grueling two days.

"We had some dogs with some cuts on their pads and their feet," said Whelchel. "They're just wore out. They're tired. They covered a lot of ground but the terrain has been really hard on the dogs, especially today."

Authorities say they will regroup on Monday to devise a plan for further searches but are resigned to the reality that they need some help from Mother Nature.

"The first thing we need to happen is we need it to warm up," said Whelchel. "We need to get some of this snow off the ground, that would really help. These cold temperatures are just making it so hard for the dogs and obviously the people that are involved in this and we just need to get a break in the weather."