Staff at a South Dakota children’s home where a missing 9-year-girl vanished from late last week allegedly waited to call 911 after she ran away.
According to the Rapid City Journal, the Children’s Home Society waited for more than an hour-and-a-half after Serenity Dennard vanished before calling police. The facility’s executive director has since stepped back on prior comments that staff immediately contacted law enforcement after Dennard ran out of the gym and into some nearby woods.
“We have been reviewing the events of Sunday and have confirmed that the 911 call was placed at 12:26,” Bill Colson, executive director of the Children’s Home Society, wrote in an email to the news outlet on Thursday, revising his earlier statement that staff called 911 “right away.”
“When Serenity left staff sight on Sunday, we immediately conducted a thorough search of our grounds and buildings. When we were unable to find Serenity we called law enforcement,” Colson wrote in the email.
KELO reported that Dennard left the home at 10:45 a.m. and was last seen in the vicinity at around 11:20 a.m. Investigators have since determined that the 9-year-old was last spotted near the cattle guard in front of the home and that she was heading north on South Rockerville Road, according to the Rapid City Journal.
The news outlet reported that Colson previously said two staff members were watching Dennard and three other children as they played in the home’s gym when one of the children ran away. Colson said one staff member went after them, leading Dennard to take off herself.
The second employee reportedly didn’t pursue Dennard as they were watching the two remaining children. Instead, they are said to have called for other staff to help.
The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office announced in a Facebook post late Tuesday that they have ended rescue efforts for Serenity Dennard. They said the clothes Dennard was in when she vanished coupled with freezing temperatures would make it unlikely she’s still alive.
Reports indicated that investigators using dogs intend to continue their recovery mission for Dennard on Friday if weather conditions aren’t too treacherous.
“We have not ruled out the possibility that she found some place warm to shelter or that someone picked her up, ” the sheriff’s office wrote in the Facebook post.
“We still have an active investigation and will follow up on all leads.”
[Featured Image: Serenity Dennard/Pennington County Sheriff’s Office]