SD SERENITY DENNARD: Missing from Pennington County, SD - 3 February 2019 - Age 9


Serenity was 9 on Feb. 3, 2019, when she ran away on a cold Sunday morning from the Black Hills Children’s Home, a residential youth treatment facility located near Rockerville in Pennington County, amid some of the most rugged and remote terrain in all of South Dakota.

Though witnesses saw her run off, and a search began almost immediately, Serenity has never been seen again and no evidence of her death has been discovered.

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Bumping as well. One of many who have my heart. Waiting for the day this child is found and answers come and someone pays.

Prayers for this child. I have been to this area of SD a few times but before she ever went missing. I will never look at the area the same way again shall I ever find myself there. Beautiful area that has now lost all appeal to me.

Four years later: looking back at the disappearance of Serenity Dennard​

Friday marks the four-year anniversary of the disappearance of then-9-year-old Serenity Dennard after she ran away from the Black Hills Children’s Home near Rockerville at 11:20 a.m. February 3, 2019. Her disappearance set off a nearly two-year-long search by dozens of agencies, hundreds of members of law enforcement, and thousands of volunteers.

She has still not been found, but the case remains open, and the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office said they continue to pursue every lead they find.
Snips. Much more at link.

Serenity Dennard disappearance: 2019 mystery still causing misery​

One of the biggest mysteries in all of South Dakota — the unknown fate of 9-year-old Serenity Dennard — elicits one singular emotion more than any other for those who loved, cared for or searched for the precocious girl who disappeared from a Black Hills youth home more than four years ago.

Some people monitoring the missing person’s case feel disappointed that Serenity was able to escape from the locked Children’s Home Society facility on Feb. 3, 2019.

Others seethe with anger that employees of the complex near Rockerville waited 80 minutes to call 911 after she ran away in the middle of winter without a coat.

Many remain consumed with curiosity over how a young girl on foot with less than a five-minute head start could evade an initial search by employees and remain lost after a two-year, manpower-heavy search of the craggy, wooded Black Hills area.

And a few others, some with social media proclivities and only scant knowledge of the law enforcement investigation that took on national proportions, are pained by their insistence that Serenity was abducted by a stranger driving on a rural road, a neighbor, an employee of the facility or even a member of Serenity’s extended family.

But hovering above the entire tragedy is a painful sadness that remains top of mind and fresh of heart in all those who played a role in Serenity’s life or the effort to find her and who want nothing more than to bring closure to a haunting mystery with no answer in sight.

“The lasting emotion for me is that I still hurt that she’s not found,” said Tony Harrison, a former captain in the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office who oversaw portions of the physical search for Serenity and the missing person’s investigation.

“I still hurt for the family. I hurt for the thousands of people who volunteered to search for her. I hurt for the investigators that absolutely poured their entire day every day for years into this case. And I hurt for myself a little bit as a dad because there’s nothing worse than not being able to find a little girl.”

Investigators followed 329 leads but stopped search

Authorities haven’t ruled out anything but have settled on a working theory that the mischievous girl quickly made her way into the remote section around the Black Hills Children’s Home, tried to hide and became lost before freezing to death, according to several law enforcement officials interviewed by News Watch in recent years.

While no individual has been conclusively cleared in the case, investigators said they do not believe a stranger or neighbor abducted her or that any member of her family or the facility had a hand in her disappearance.

“The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office remains committed to investigating any leads received regarding Serenity’s disappearance,” Duhamel wrote in an email. “To date, we have investigated 329 leads with the help of other law enforcement agencies throughout South Dakota and the nation. As this remains an open investigation, additional details are not being released at this point in time.”

Nationwide search for Serenity Dennard included interviews with 538 people

The initial two-year investigation into Serenity’s disappearance involved a dual track effort.

The physical search for Serenity included more than 1,500 personnel from 66 separate agencies who covered more than 6,000 miles of terrain during 220 search attempts involving people on foot, air searches and use of cadaver dogs. The first days of the search were hampered by rain that turned to snow and temperatures that dipped well below freezing.

A simultaneous investigative track sought to rule out foul play and search nationwide for Serenity. In all, 538 people were interviewed or contacted by authorities. The home, nearby residences and outbuildings were searched numerous times, and six search warrants were executed, officials said.

Sheriff: ‘It’s always more emotional when it’s a child’

Then-Sheriff Kevin Thom told News Watch in 2020 that the department took a “systematic, methodical approach” to the investigation that became the most exhaustive and expensive in county history.

He kept a large map of the area around the Black Hills Children’s Home on his desk, with a tangle of blue and red lines indicating each specific path taken by searchers and dogs.

Serenity Dennard disappearance

Adoptive father: Serenity was smart girl who enjoyed being searched for

Serenity was a “super smart” and outgoing girl who brought joy and light to those around her, even as she battled emotional problems caused by uncertainty and abandonment during her childhood, Gentry said.

Chad Dennard, Serenity’s adoptive father, said in 2020 that Serenity had spent time in a dozen foster homes and that her biological mother had served time in prison. He said Serenity was a highly intelligent girl who loved animals, babies, watching movies, singing along to music, riding her bike and spending time with her grandmother.

Chad Dennard acknowledged that Serenity had run away from home several times and enjoyed being searched for. He agrees with the theory that Serenity escaped from the home and somehow got lost to the point she couldn’t find her way back or be easily found.

‘We just want some closure’

Harrison, now retired from the sheriff’s office and working as a law enforcement training expert for a private company, said two cases from his 26-year career in front-line law enforcement still haunt him: The 2011 fatal shootings of two Rapid City police officers and Serenity’s disappearance.

“This case will never just go away,” he said. “But I take solace that at the end of the day, we did everything we could and literally left no stone unturned to the best of our ability to find her.

“I just hope and pray that someday, somebody comes across her and we can give some closure to the families.”
I still feel she made it to the road and was picked up by an opportunist. IMO she was trying to go back home.
I can see and respect your opinion.

My opinion is that it was related to the home and someone there did something to her. I get she was seen outside but I believe someone caught her/up to her.

At the very least, the negligence was horrendous.

I wasn't on this site when this one occurred but this is one girl who stole my heart/has my heart. Seeing a pic of how they think she would look now and how old she would be is heartbreaking.

That home is responsible one way or another and they got a mere SLAP on the hand. It is a high profit big dollar business with sh*t employees. Major big deal of a "non profit" in SD. They also have women's shelters and tons of other things but with very highly paid top execs or running the board and so forth and high dollar and fund raising dinners and so forth. It SMELLS.

by: Kyle Ireland
Posted: May 12, 2023 / 11:19 AM CDT
Updated: May 12, 2023 / 12:05 PM CDT

PENNINGTON COUNTY, S.D. (KELO) — On Friday, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released a new age progression picture of Serenity Dennard.

May 12th is Serenity’s 14th birthday.


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