Published on Wednesday, August 22, 2007Body found in New Jersey could be that of missing Whiteville girl
By Deuce Niven
WHITEVILLE — A laboratory in Texas is testing DNA samples to determine whether a body found in New Jersey is that of a 4-year-old girl who went missing in 2002.
The girl’s mother, Vartasha McCullough White, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing Kynande Bennett even though the girl’s body never was found.
White claimed Kynande disappeared from a Kmart in Whiteville in 2002.
Sean Adison, a detective with the Conway Police Department in Conway, S.C., said the DNA testing will determine whether the body found in New Jersey is Kynande.
“They’ve got the DNA profile we developed during our case,” Adison said. “They are comparing it with the remains they recovered in New Jersey.”
Adison said he does not know when the Texas lab will complete its work.
Conway police took over the case after officers in Whiteville decided that White lied when she said the girl went missing at the store there. Investigators don’t believe Kynande was in Whiteville on the Sunday evening she was reported missing. White was living in Conway at the time.
An anonymous Internet user put police on the New Jersey trail, e-mailing links to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to news outlets and to police, asking if a body found in Upper Freehold Township in Monmouth County, N.J., in March 2005 might be Kynande.
White was convicted in 2006 of homicide by child abuse, aiding and abetting child abuse, and child neglect.
Her lawyer, Ralph Wilson, is aware of the remains in New Jersey and wants the DNA analysis done, said his son, Ralph Wilson Jr. The younger Wilson is a clerk in his father’s office. The senior Wilson is out of the country, his son said.
A hunter walking in Clayton Park in Monmouth County discovered a partially buried skull and jawbone in tall grass on March 18, 2005, according to a statement from the New Jersey State Police.
Detectives found a complete skeleton and some canvas material that is possibly from a handbag or a book bag, with a print of the cartoon character Sylvester the Cat.
Forensic anthropologists have created two composite sketches from the skull and from DNA analysis that tells them the body is that of a girl, probably black, who was between 5 and 9 years old when she died.
Tests on the girl’s teeth indicate she lived in a community where the water is fluorinated. No fillings or dental work were found.
Two images of the child’s face give “a useful range of looks, depicting the possible age range for the girl,” the statement said. One is a computer-generated image based on a CAT scan of the child’s skull made by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The other is a drawing by a New Jersey State Police artist.
“It’s almost school time again, and we hope these images will trigger someone’s memory of a child that disappeared between three to seven years ago without an adequate explanation,” said Lt. William Sykes of the New Jersey State Police.
A tip line has been set up by New Jersey police. Anyone who recognizes the girl in the sketches, or who knows something about the case is asked to call (866) 657-7411.
“This is a very solvable case if the right people see these images,” said Lt. Col. Gayle Cameron, deputy superintendent of investigations for the New Jersey State Police. “Until then, the tragic death of this child will be on the minds and hearts of our detectives working this case.”
The person who e-mailed law enforcement identifies herself as Andrea. She said she would like to remain anonymous.
“I think a lot of this stuff seems to slip through the cracks because no one sends the information on,” Andrea wrote in an e-mail. “It’s kind of disturbing that even though this child was found two years ago, unless I’m wrong it’s just been checked out for the first time now to see if it’s the same person or not. It’s pretty sad, and it makes me really mad.”