A 19-year-old woman strangled a 5-year-old cousin who had been in her parents’ care, then discarded his body along a road before calling in a false report that two masked intruders took the boy from their Albany-area home, authorities said Friday.
Tiffany VanAlstyne’s bogus 911 call on Thursday afternoon set off a search for Kenneth White that lasted into the night, authorities said. A search dog picked up a scent at about 9 p.m., and Kenneth’s body was found in a culvert, covered with snow VanAlstyne used in a bid to hide the crime, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said.
VanAlstyne was charged Friday with second-degree murder. She said nothing at her arraignment. She is due back in court on Tuesday for an initial hearing to enter a plea.
Apple declined to comment on a motive and said authorities believe VanAlstyne acted alone. VanAlstyne is represented by the Albany County Public Defender’s Office, which did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
VanAlstyne’s parents have been the legal guardians of Kenneth, his twin sister Cheyenne, and 4-year-old sister Christine since September, and the children had lived in the home for more than a year. Apple said he did not believe the other children were in the room where White was attacked.
VanAlstyne strangled the boy and tossed his body ‘‘like a piece of trash’’ over a guard rail along a rural two-lane road about 40 yards from the trailer home in the town of Berne sometime before making the 911 call just after 1 p.m. Thursday, Apple said. The child had also suffered a blow to the head.
The 911 call touched off a search that included an Amber Alert describing the kidnappers as two men, clad all in black and driving a black pickup truck.
But Apple said the interrogation of VanAlstyne and others began to yield contradictions that threw the abduction story into doubt.
‘‘Things did not start to add up,’’ he said, and investigators got a warrant to return to the home, about 23 miles southeast of Albany.
The children’s mother lives in Amsterdam, west of Albany, and the father in Massachusetts. Authorities would not say why the children had been place in the care of their aunt, Brenda VanAlstyne.
Apple said it was common for Tiffany VanAlstyne to baby-sit the children when her mother and father, Kenneth VanAlstyne, weren’t home. He said police had been to the home on a number of occasions for unspecified reasons but had no reason to believe the children weren’t safe.
But he and District Attorney P. David Soares now say the boy’s sisters are with child protection authorities because of what Apple described as problems at the home ‘‘that put peoples’ lives in danger.’’
Soares said a number of agencies are investigating the children’s living conditions.