Kynande Kalehje Bennett

Kynande, circa 2002; Age-progression to age 11 (circa 2009); Vertasha McCullough; Kevin Bennett

  • Missing Since 09/29/2002
  • Missing From Whiteville, North Carolina
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Date of Birth 08/24/1998 (20)
  • Age 4 years old
  • Height and Weight 3'10, 90 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description A gray FUBU t-shirt, blue jeans, white socks and black sneakers.
  • Distinguishing Characteristics African-American female. Brown hair, brown eyes. Kynande has a light complexion, pierced ears, and a birthmark on her arm in the shape of a seashell. When she was last seen, her hair was styled in small braids tied with small bows and/or barrettes. Kynande's name is pronounced "kee-NAHN-day."

Details of Disappearance

Kynande's mother, Vertasha McCullough (sometimes referred to as Vertasha White or Vertasha McCullough White) said she last saw her daughter at a K-Mart store at 5:00 p.m. on September 29, 2002. They resided in Conway, South Carolina and were visiting Kynande's uncle in Whiteville, North Carolina that day. At first, McCullough claimed Kynande disappeared in an aisle of the store, but she later changed her story and said she walked into the store and thought Kynande was behind her, but turned around and the child was gone.

Nobody remembered seeing the child with her mother in K-Mart that day, and video surveillance images of the establishment do not show any images of Kynande. Investigators claim that there is no evidence that she was even in the state at the time. No one other than Kynande's parents saw her in the two days before she was reported missing.

Police claimed that Kynande's mother and her father, Eddie Kevin Bennett Jr., who goes by his middle name, were uncooperative in the investigation into the child's disappearance and that there were inconsistencies in their stories. Photos of both parents are posted with his case summary.

The day Kynande disappeared, her grandmother told the Conway Police Department that she suspected the child had been abused. Investigators stated Kynande's parents seemed uninterested in her case and never called to ask for updates. They also reported that McCullough failed a polygraph regarding her daughter's disappearance.

Police executed a search warrant on Kynande's home and her family's vehicles, and took blood and saliva samples from both parents. They later stated that the Bennett residence had been "sanitized" with bleach, but they found transfer stains, which come from fluid spatters being wiped, with Kynande's DNA.

Kynande's parents were both arrested in February 2003 and charged with homicide by child abuse in connection with their daughter's case. Investigators said the DNA evidence proved she died in Conway and never went to Whiteville on September 29. That, combined with Kynande's grandmother's testimony, led to the murder charges.

The charges against Kevin were dropped for lack of evidence in October 2005, but additional charges of unlawful neglect of a child and inflicting great bodily harm on a child were added to McCullough's indictment in December 2005.

McCullough maintained her innocence at the trial and testified in her own defense, stating she never harmed Kynande. The prosecution theorized McCullough had abused Kynande and caused her death unintentionally, then panicked afterwards and attempted to conceal the crime. She was convicted of all charges in February 2006 and sentenced to twenty years in prison.

Kynande remains missing. She is described as an intelligent, well-mannered child who could read simple words and count to thirty at the time of her disappearance. She liked the cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants. Foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.

Updated 5 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated January 13, 2010; age-progression updated.