A toddler was abducted in Birmingham, Alabama, this past weekend, gripping the nation and fueling calls for her safe return. With no word on where three-year-old Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney could be nearly a week later, there seemed to be more questions than answers.
Here’s what we know so far.
According to Alabama.com, McKinney was abducted on Saturday evening while she was with her mother and other family members at a birthday party. She was last seen in the parking lot of the Tom Brown Village public housing community with other children who reported that a Black male got out of an SUV and put McKinney in the vehicle. Police found out that the SUV in question turned out to be a Toyota Sequoia per surveillance footage from a nearby Shell gas station that also showed images of a possible suspect. Police quickly ruled out the possibility that McKinney’s disappearance had anything to do with a custody dispute.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency issued an Amber Alert for McKinney hours later and on Sunday the FBI announced that it would also get involved in the search.
McKinney’s father, Dominic McKinney, gave perspective on the little girl whose disappearance has saddened countless people and inspired many others to aid in the search for her.
“She’s a good girl,” he said. “She’s sweet, she’s really loveable. Everyone loves Cupcake.”
April Thomas, McKinney’s mother, also urged the community to call the toddler by her nickname if they think they have spotted her.
“If anybody sees Cupcake, just call her by her name,” Thomas tearfully said. “Don’t call her Kamille. She understands Cupcake.”
On Wednesday, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) announced that it would be assisting with trying to locate McKinney. Though NCMEC Vice President Robert Lowery said that it is very rare these days for children to be abducted by strangers, he urged the community not to fear the worst.
“We’re not going to give up the search or give up hope to find Kamille alive and return her home to her family because that would be a great disservice,” Lowery said. “I think often time yes, time is the enemy when children are missing and we hope to find them and get them returned.”
He said it would take a group effort to find Cupcake as quickly as possible.
“The longer they’re away, the more likely they’re to be victimized, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to find her and return her,” Lowery added. “We need to fully engage in reporting tips information.”
On Monday, authorities announced that they had located the vehicle in question and detained two suspects on unrelated charges of child pornography and kidnapping. According to the Associated Press, Patrick Devone Stallworth, 39, was charged with four counts of possession of child pornography and three counts of possession with child pornography with intent to distribute. The second suspect, Derrick Irisha Brown, 29, was charged with kidnapping for a separate incident. Both have also been questioned in the abduction of McKinney.
Though it was unclear if those suspects had anything to do with McKinney’s abduction, one attorney has offered an unusual reward for her safe return.
“You bring me this child, pay me a dollar, I’m your lawyer at that point,” Eric Guster said in a Facebook Live video. “I can’t tell people who you are. Let me tell you why this is important for you. Number one, it’ll get the heat off of you. The major heat will be off of you because the child will be returned. Secondly, I think it got out of hand. Something y’all were doing got out of hand. Don’t hurt that baby, no matter what.”
The police have expanded the search for McKinney across state lines and her father has been helping law enforcement. He spoke with 13 News on Monday pleading for his daughter’s safe return.
“Drop her off anywhere,” Dominic said. “Just let her out. Somebody will see her. Everybody knows what’s going on. Just take her to the store and let her out somebody is going to see her. They know what’s going on and that will be the end of this. We just want the baby back.”
Cupcake’s abduction was the latest in a disturbing trend of Black children becoming victims of violent crimes. It was only in May when four-year-old Maleah Davis went missing in Houston, making her at least the eighth such victim since March.