BERNE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A 19-year old woman is accused of killing a 5-year-old cousin in her care and then calling in a false report that two masked intruders took the boy from their Albany-area home.
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said Tiffany Van Alstyne is being arraigned on a second-degree murder charge in the killing of Kenneth White.
He said Van Alstyne strangled the boy and tossed his body "like a piece of trash'' into a culvert across the street sometime before making the bogus 911 call Thursday afternoon in the town of Berne. Apple declined to comment on a motive.
Apple said the teen initially told police two men wearing black ski masks entered the house, pinned her to the floor and took the child at about 1:30 p.m. Thursday and then drove off in a pickup truck.
Police issued an AMBER Alert less than a half-hour later. The alert was later canceled around 11:45 p.m. Thursday. Apple said White's body was found by a sheriff's dog during an overnight search.
"It's horrific, it's heart-wrenching,'' Apple told WGY-AM. "It's certainly not the ending we were praying for.''
Kenneth's mother lives elsewhere in New York and his father lives in Massachusetts, Apple said. Van Alstyne's parents have been the legal guardians of Kenneth, his twin sister and a 4-year-old sister since September.
News of the boy's death shocked residents in the rural hill towns west of Albany, described by Apple as a close-knit area where everyone knows everyone.
"Everybody's devastated,'' said Lauren Tracey, a mother of two who lives nearby but doesn't know the family. "It was a little never-wracking. It's basically in my backyard.''
Kenneth lived in a red-and-white striped mobile home on a rural road in Berne. Police vehicles were parked outside the home Friday morning, blocking access to the road.
The Berne-Knox-Westerlo school district posted a statement on its website Friday calling the boy's death "a difficult and challenging situation."
"Our condolences and thoughts go out to the family and friends of our student," Interim Superintendent Dr. Joseph L. Natale said in the statement. "A team of counselors, school psychologists and social workers at the elementary and secondary schools will provide support to any students or staff members in need throughout the upcoming days."
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