The search for 3-year-old Alabama girl Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney has reached a fever pitch in Birmingham.
The toddler, who vanished during a birthday party, hasn’t been seen in nearly a week, stoking some fears in the community she may never be found.
“[It’s] absolutely gut-wrenching,” Steve Ammons, a Jefferson County commissioner, told Oxygen.com. “Any parent, to lose their child like that when they have no control and you’re at somebody else’s mercy, is unfathomable.”
Five Jefferson County commissioners, including Ammons, have since collectively kicked in $8,000 of discretionary funds toward a $20,000 Crime Stoppers reward for information leading to McKinney’s return.
“It’s sad and the community is crying out,” Sheila Tyson, another county commissioner, told Oxygen.com. “We’re trying to get the reward up as high as we can get it,” she added.
McKinney, who was last seen on Oct. 12 around 8:30 p.m., was wearing a pink Mickey Mouse t-shirt with a leopard print design and no shoes, authorities said.
Ammons hopes a higher cash reward will lead to some kind of tip regarding McKinney’s whereabouts.
“We’re hoping it entices somebody to actually come forward with information,” he added.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey also announced this week that her office had separately offered up a $5,000 reward for information related to the missing girl.
“At this time, we offer our fervent prayers for law enforcement and all involved in the search,” Ivey said in a statement to the press. “We pray for Kamille’s family and that God will continue to watch over Kamille until she is safely returned home soon.”
A Toyota SUV, supposedly spotted nearby where McKinney went missing and which police initially suspected could have been connected to her disappearance, was found on Sunday, but with no trace of McKinney.
Two people of interest, Patrick Stallworth, 39 and Derrick Irisha Brown, 29, were subsequently taken into custody and booked on unrelated charges.
Stallworth was wanted on several outstanding warrants related to possession and distribution of child pornography charges, according to online court records. Court records also showed that Brown was held for violating probationary terms on a previous kidnapping charge. They haven’t been charged in McKinney’s disappearance. Police have yet to uncover any relationship between the pair, supposedly a couple, and the McKinney family, AL.com reported on Friday.
Earlier this week, it was mistakenly reported that McKinney had been found, according to local outlet WKRG. However, the announcement, supposedly made by county authorities — and which spread to McKinney’s family — was later proven to be a false report.
“The grandmother passed out after they found out it wasn’t her,” said Tyson, the District Two county commissioner. “People were falling on the ground. They were just crying and screaming. It’s a mess,” she added.
Tyson, a 58-year-old former community activist and city councilor, said she’s in touch with McKinney’s family.
“They’re in bad shape,” she said. “They’re really tore up about it. You got to be heartless in order to do this to a family.”
Tyson added she had been out on Thursday morning until 1 a.m. assisting a community search party effort for McKinney, speaking to neighborhood residents and putting up signs and posters of the missing girl.
“I have never seen a mass search like this in my life,” Tyson, a mother of four, described. “Everyone is out searching.”
Officials also noted that a statewide Amber Alert has since been expanded to surrounding states.
“It’s something that affects not just one community, one part of town — this affects the entire city, it affects the state, and I think everyone wants to see this young baby found and back home,” said Birmingham police chief Patrick Smith during a press conference earlier this week.
McKinney’s disappearance has also supposedly terrified Birmingham parents in the days since she vanished.
“You don’t see kids walking to school — you see adults walking with all the children,” Tyson explained. “They’re scared to let their children walk to school now.”
The county commissioner said she plans to continue her search party efforts into Friday evening.
“I believe she’s still alive,” Tyson said. “I believe she’s here in Jefferson County. And we’re going to do everything we can to help find her."
The FBI, the U.S. Marshal Service, and the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children are also assisting with the investigation.
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