Search for Serenity hampered by weather, terrain

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NEAR ROCKERVILLE, S.D. (KOTA TV) -- It's been five months and 10 days since Serenity Dennard ran off from the Black Hills Children's Home.

The search for Serenity has been made difficult by snow, wind and rough terrain.

The search for her has been difficult --and it's drawn its share of criticism. But searchers remain determined to find the little girl despite the impediments Mother Nature keeps throwing in their way.

"Early on we had plenty of snow and below zero conditions and slippery hillsides and steep terrain," said Rockerville Fire Chief Gail Schmidt who has been out on searches for Senenity 32 times. "And now, of course, we have the tall grasses and the leafed out vegitation. The thick vegitation makes it a little more challenging to see in some of these areas"

Added Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom: "We've had record cold and snow this spring and record rain more trees knocked down by the snow. It's been a challenge."

More than a thousand people have helped out in the search logging more than 4,200 miles. To say nothing of the 81 dog teams.

"The team effort that has been involved in this search has been larger than anything that I have ever been a part of," said Schmidt.

And then there's the online criticism, particularly from State Sen. Lynne DiSanto, R-Rapid City.

"There's lot's of different opinions about what we should or shouldn't be doing," said Thom. "I think if you look at the data we've provided in terms of our efforts to date -- both on the investigative side and the search side -- I don't think anyone can question our commitment. Our focus is on Serenity and her family and trying to find Serenity."

The dog handlers continue to report their dogs picking up cadaver scents and that gives searchers hope but with no major discoveries, will there be a time when the effort gets put on hold?

"At some point it may come to that but we're not there now," said the sheriff.

Search crews will be back out in the Rockerville area Saturday looking for the little girl who was just 9-years-old when she was last seen.