WHITEVILLE, N.C. -- Vertasha McCullough-White sits in prison, serving a 20-year sentence for killing her daughter, 4-year-old Kynande Bennett. Investigators never found Bennett’s body and her whereabouts still remain a mystery.
Bennett, whose family lived in Conway, S.C., was reported missing by her mother in 2002 from a K-Mart in Whiteville.
"[McCullough-White] went in and immediately walked around for couple of minutes right by the front door and started asking the clerk, ‘Did you see my daughter? Did you see my daughter?’" Monica Caison, with the CUE Center for Missing Persons, said.
Investigators say the family did have relatives in the Whiteville area but they don't believe Bennett ever came to North Carolina that day.
"They were supposed to go get their brakes fixed on their truck and while that was taking place, she was supposed to run to K-Mart, which didn't make sense right off the bat because of the fact she took the truck they were supposed to be working on," Caison said.
When authorities couldn't turn up any leads in Whiteville, they quickly turned their attention to the family's apartment in Conway. There, authorities say, the mother's story quickly fell apart.
"We were able to determine that she had, in fact, vacated her apartment a short time after Kynande went missing and had disposed of a lot of her clothing, toys and things like that in a trash can behind the apartment," attorney Bert von Herrmann, who prosecuted the case in 2006, said.
Police arrested Bennett's parents in 2003.
"The other thing that was very suspicious at the scene was there was huge amounts of Clorox used to clean all the surfaces in the apartment, and that was done after Kynande allegedly went missing in Whiteville," von Herrmann said.
McCullough-White was convicted of homicide by child abuse and charges against the father were dropped. McCullough-White maintains her innocence, but has lost recent chances to appeal her conviction. Those close to the case still think others were involved.
"It was my belief then, it is my belief now that there had to be other people involved in it,” von Herrmann said. “Who it was or what it was, what their involvement was, I can't say."
If you have any information regarding this case, please call the Whiteville Police Department or the Cue Center for Missing Persons at (910) 343-1131.