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Social media spat erupts over South Dakota missing girl case

Lynne DiSanto Photo: AP. Lynne DiSanto

July 10, 2019 02:52 PM

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota state lawmaker has been hit with a no-trespass order after a social media blowup over her activism in a missing girl case.

The dispute began when one of state Sen. Lynne DiSanto's constituents accused her of using Serenity Dennard's disappearance for personal gain — that the senator's actions are more about self-promotion than finding Serenity, the Rapid City Journal reported Wednesday.

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Serenity was 9 when she walked away in frigid weather in February from the Black Hills Children's Home, which is in a rugged, forested area of western South Dakota, and remains missing despite multiple searches. Since then, DiSanto has launched a website and Facebook page with commentary, videos and other content related about the case, and started a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising reward money.

Police said Patricia Kassner, who like DiSanto is from Box Elder, posted messages on the Facebook page accusing DeSanto of exploiting the girl's disappearance.

"To use a situation like this for your own personal gain and just to stir up drama is just evil," said one of Kassner's messages, according to a police report.

DiSanto called Kassner "completely and totally ignorant" in one reply and also wrote, "Patricia Kassner I see you live close to me!!! Awesome! I'll be stopping by to say Hi so we can talk face to face soon."

Massner contacted Box Elder police July 1 and expressed concerns about a potential confrontation.

Lt. Chris Misselt issued the no-trespass order even though Kassner acknowledged to him that DiSanto would "probably not" show up to assault her and DiSanto told him she didn't intend her message as a threat.

"When people engage on social media, things can get taken out of context, and there was nothing that happened," DiSanto told the newspaper. She said she's using her platform in a positive way and asked why more elected officials aren't talking about the case.

But Kassner stuck to her assertions that DiSanto was using the case for her own benefit. She also criticized DiSanto for featuring large photographs of herself as the primary images on her Facebook page and website, instead of more prominently featuring photos of Serenity.

"Go onto any of her pages and what is the first thing you see but a big picture of her?" Kassner said of DiSanto.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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(Copyright 2019 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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