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Police Unsure if South Dakota Runaway Still Alive After She Went Missing Without Warm Clothing in Dead of Winter

south dakota runaway age enhanced photos serenity dennard
Source: Pennington County Sheriff’s Office; National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Jun. 11 2023, Published 1:12 p.m. ET

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An age-progressed photo of a 10-year-old South Dakota girl who went missing in 2019 has been released by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in hopes of bringing in any new leads, according to authorities.

As Front Page Detectives previously reported, Serenity Dennard allegedly ran away from the Black Hills Children’s Home in Rockerville in February 2019.

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Now four years later, the NCMEC has released the age-progression photo of Dennard, who would now be 14 years old, according to Inforum.

"We’re all watching Serenity grow up before our eyes through these images and it’s surreal,” NCMEC’s Communication Director Angeline Hartmann said in a statement to Inforum. “At NCMEC, we know that our age progression images can be a catalyst in a missing child investigation and we're hoping this will somehow generate fresh leads."

Black Hills Children’s Home reportedly provides treatment to 4- to 14-year-olds who have experienced abuse, trauma or mental and behavioral health issues. Dennard was enrolled in the inpatient program by her legal guardians because of behavioral issues due to being removed from her biological parents’ care and being placed with numerous foster families.

At the time of her disappearance, two employees were reportedly watching Dennard and three other children while they played in the facility’s gym. One of the children ran away, so the employees went to pursue that child when Dennard took off herself, officials said.

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The search for Serenity was initially classified as a recovery mission by police because of the freezing temperatures when she disappeared and the fact she vanished without any winter clothing, officials said.

Two months after Dennard went missing, multiple dog teams reportedly detected a cadaver scent in the area where she was last seen. However, in January 2021, Pennington County police announced they were discontinuing the search due to a lack of new leads.

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Now with a new age-enhanced photo, Pennington County Sheriff Brian Mueller is hoping it will lead to answers in this case, Inforum reported.

“This is another investigative tool in an open and active investigation,” Mueller said. “Although the physical search has been exhausted, we follow up on all leads as we look for answers in this painful and difficult missing person case.”


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