Babysitter's Story of Masked Intruders Unravels as She's Charged in Strangulation Death of 5-Year-old

The boy from upstate New York was reported missing on Thursday

Photo: Mike Groll/AP; Albany County Sheriff's Office/AP

The call was chilling.

At 1:20 pm on Thursday, 19-year-old Tiffany Van Alstyne frantically dialed 911. According to police, Van Alstyne, who was babysitting her cousins, claimed that two masked intruders had forced their way into her home in Clarksville, a rural town 10 miles south of Albany, New York. While one intruder pinned Alstyne down, the other grabbed 5-year-old Kenneth White and loaded him into a full-size black pickup truck, possibly an extended cab. Although two other young children were in the house, neither was taken by the intruders.

The Albany County Sheriffs Office leapt into action, issuing an Amber Alert and searching the land near the home. Early Friday morning, a sheriff’s dog made a gruesome discovery: White’s body was covered in snow, on the ground across the street from the home. He had been strangled, with evidence of blunt force trauma to his head.

Police began to question Van Alstyne – the daughter of Kenneth’s legal guardians. As cops interviewed Van Alstyne, they say her story began to fall apart. “Reports of the masked men and the black truck, those are false,” Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple told reporters on Friday morning. “We caught some contradictions in two different statements that were taken, so a few flags had popped. It’s a horrific case. We lost a 5-year-old child, a senseless death, who left behind a twin sister and a 4-year-old sister.”

Police believe that Van Alstyne killed White in the house and dumped him outside. “He was basically thrown away like a piece of trash,” said Sheriff Apple. “It is sinful and it is sad.”

On Friday, police charged Van Alstyne with second-degree murder as her mother, Brenda Van Alstyne, looked on. During the arraignment, Brenda Van Alstyne said that her daughter suffers from bipolar disorder, The Times Union reported. Tiffany Van Alstyne pleaded not guilty and was sent to the county jail with no bond.

The charges have stunned Brenda Van Alstyne, who told The Times Union that she couldn’t believe that her daughter would harm the little boy.

“She just told me that two guys took him,” she said outside the courthouse. “She was always taking care of him, buying gifts for him and she loved him so much. And we loved him too.”

During an emotional press conference, Sheriff Apple appeared to choke up while talking to the media. “Certain cases stick with you your entire career, and this is one of those cases,” he said. “I’ve got three young boys; I’m going to go home and hug them.”

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