Kynande Kalehje Bennett

1 AP
Left: Kynande, circa 2002;
Right: Age-progression to age 11 (circa 2009)

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: September 29, 2002 from Whiteville, North Carolina
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date Of Birth: August 24, 1998
  • Age: 4 years old
  • Height and Weight: 3'10, 90 pounds
  • 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."
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description: A gray FUBU t-shirt, blue jeans, white socks and black sneakers.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Kynande's mother, Vartasha "Tasha" McCullough (sometimes referred to as Vartasha White or Vartasha 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 below his case summary. The day Kynande disappeared, her grandmother told the Conway Police Department that she suspected the child had been abused. Kynande's parents deny that they ever mistreated her.

    Kevin denied claims that he had refused to help investigators, but admitted that he declined to take a polygraph. McCullough did take a polygraph and failed it. Kevin suggested that police were focusing on himself and McCullough for lack of any other suspects, and alleges that the investigators are biased against them because they are African-American. Investigators, however, claim that Kynande's parents seem uninterested in her case and never called to ask for updates. They also reported that McCullough failed a polygraph regarding her daughter's disappearance. Kynande's parents were both considered suspects in her case.

    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. The stains were linked to Kynande by 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 they have DNA evidence that proves she died in Conway and never went to Whiteville on September 29. That, combined with Kynande's grandmother's testimony, lead 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. Prosecutors 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 in September 2002. She liked the cartoon character Sponge Bob. Foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.

    Vartasha McCullough Kevin Bennett
    Left: McCullough;
    Right: Kevin

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Indiana State Police
    800-382-7537

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    Source Information
    The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children
    About Crime and Punishment
    The Sun News
    The Wilmington Star
    The Augusta Chronicle
    Chat Area
    The Fayetteville Observer
    WWAY NewsChannel 3

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    Updated 5 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated January 13, 2010; age-progression updated.

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