For 10 days, the city of Birmingham, Ala., had hope that 3-year-old Kamille McKinney, who was abducted from a birthday party earlier this month, would be safely returned to her family.

Hope was the prevailing emotion among investigators as they tirelessly tracked down leads about Kamille’s whereabouts after she was reported missing on Oct. 12. City and state leaders were hopeful that appeals to the public and generous rewards would turn up critical tips. Meanwhile, Kamille’s family hoped they would once again get to hold the little girl affectionately nicknamed “Cupcake.”

“It’s something that affects not just one community, one part of town,” Birmingham Police Chief Patrick D. Smith said at a news conference last week. “I think everyone wants to see this young baby found and back home.”

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But on Tuesday night, the hope that had fueled the days-long search for Kamille was replaced by grief.

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Human remains believed to be Kamille’s were found in a dumpster at a landfill in Birmingham, Smith said at a news conference — a grim development in an abduction that has captivated the city of more than 200,000 and made national headlines. On Thursday authorities charged two people with capital murder of a victim under 14 years old.

“Locating the remains were the last pieces of the puzzle” investigators needed to bring charges against Patrick Devone Stallworth, 39, and his girlfriend, Derick Irisha Brown, 29, Smith said. The pair were arrested on unrelated charges shortly after Kamille went missing and questioned about the child. Brown was still in jail Tuesday and Stallworth, who posted bond, was taken into custody again, Smith said.

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“We believe that this was something that they thought about and acted upon,” he said. “They saw an opportunity to take a young child, which they did. Further investigation will reveal what action happened after that.”

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The defendants will be held without bond, the Jefferson County District Attorney announced Thursday.

Attorneys for Stallworth and Brown did not respond to requests for comment early Wednesday, but have previously said their clients are innocent, the Associated Press reported. Emory Anthony, Stallworth’s attorney, told the AP on Friday that his client has an alibi for the time of the alleged kidnapping. Adam Danneman, a public defender whose office is representing Brown, said she was “horrified” by Kamille’s disappearance, but “adamantly denies” knowing anything about the abduction, according to the AP.

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Tuesday’s news was met with an outpouring of support from the community, including leaders such as Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin (D) and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R).

“Our entire city is mourning,” Woodfin said at the news conference. “Kamille is gone, ripped away from her family. The pain her family is enduring is unimaginable.”

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In a statement shared on Twitter, Ivey offered her “heartfelt condolences” to the young girl’s loved ones.

“The heart of our state is broken, but our resolve must be to do everything we can to avoid this tragedy from happening to another family,” she tweeted. “Our prayers are with Kamille’s family and all who have been touched by this nightmare.”

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Kamille was last seen about 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 12 at a public housing community in Birmingham, where she and her relatives had gathered to celebrate a birthday. The youngster, dressed in a pink T-shirt with a Minnie Mouse design and leopard print shorts, was playing outside with another child when a man suddenly approached, according to surveillance video released by police last week.

The man, who appeared to walk with a slight limp, briefly paused in front of the two children before moving along, the video showed. As he disappeared from the camera’s view, the children scampered behind him.

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Moments later, Kamille was gone, police said.

Video Surveillance of two men who may have information that can help us locate Cupcake. Kamille Mckinney

The video was recovered from a surveillance camera within the Tom Brown Housing complex at about the same time as Kamille Mckinney was reported missing. If you are one of the people in the video, we need your help with the investigation! Please call the Birmingham Police Department at 205-254-7777.

Posted by Birmingham Police Department (AL) Major Crimes on Friday, October 18, 2019

Children attending the party said they saw a man get out of a sport-utility vehicle and put Kamille in the car, AL.com reported, prompting police to launch a search for the suspect and vehicle, later described as a dark-colored Toyota Sequoia with a beige trim.

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Almost exactly 24 hours after Kamille was allegedly taken, authorities made their first major breakthrough in the case. Residents reported seeing a car that matched the police’s description outside a condominium not far from where the girl was abducted, according to AL.com. Smith told reporters on Tuesday that the tip about the SUV was just one of the clues that led investigators to Stallworth and Brown.

Stallworth was detained on child pornography charges, which were not related to the alleged abduction, while Brown was arrested for an unrelated kidnapping, the AP reported.

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As police continued their investigation, which included questioning the couple and canvassing the city, Kamille’s family was also out looking.

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Dominic McKinney, the girl’s father, told reporters on Oct. 13 that he wasn’t going to get any sleep, according to WVTM. “I been out all night. I look through everything around here. Every empty school, every abandoned building, and I won’t stop.”

McKinney later added: “They could have took her to Jupiter. We’re going to find her.”

The urgent search efforts, however, weren’t turning up much. Large rewards for information were announced and countless tips were called in, but nothing was leading to Kamille, Smith told reporters at a news conference early last week.

On Oct. 16, Smith changed his tactics, delivering a direct appeal to people he believed had information about Kamille.

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“If you know where Kamille is, if you have her and you’re not sure what to do, I want to just talk to you for one second,” Smith said. “I want to give you safe passage. … If you don’t know what to do or where to go and you’re frightened, we’re here to help you.”

By Friday, almost a week after Kamille’s disappearance, Smith told reporters he was still hopeful that the child would be found.

“In my heart, I believe she is in and around the area and we’re hoping to bring her home safely,” he said.

Smith was right — Kamille probably never left Birmingham.

The girl’s remains were found in a dumpster, which was later moved to a landfill, that had been parked near the apartment complex where the SUV was located, Smith said Tuesday, noting that police had been searching through trash from a specific area of the city.

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“We can no longer assume that everyone is a part of the village that is trying to raise the child,” he said. “This young child has touched a nation. This young child has definitely sent a message across the nation that we all must be diligent to protect them all.”

Kamille McKinney Vigil City Hall Linn Park

Posted by Birmingham Police Department (AL) Major Crimes on Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Wednesday afternoon, city officials held a vigil outside a Birmingham City Hall cast in a purple light — Kamille’s favorite color, area news stations reported. It was one of many events planned for the coming days.

Speaking at the vigil, Smith called Birmingham a changed city, saying that perhaps “we were a little bit too carefree, maybe there’s more that we could have done to watch over this little child.” Faith leaders called for anger and grief to be channeled toward a fight for justice and pledged to keep Kamille’s memory alive.

“A little innocent 3-year-old girl was ripped from her family too soon and her absence, make no doubt about it, will leave a hole in our hearts,'' said Mayor Woodfin at the city hall event.

“We will never forget her name,” he added.

Hannah Knowles contributed to this report.

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