ALBANY >> Twenty-year-old Tiffany Van Alstyne had a tired, melancholy expression as she stood before Judge Peter Lynch Tuesday morning. She pled not guilty to the alleged murder of her 5-year-old cousin in December, just days before Christmas.
Van Alstyne was arraigned in Albany County Court on two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree manslaughter of Kenneth White who was found in a ditch covered in snow across the street from the family’s red, white, and blue trailer at 994 Thatcher Park Rd in the town of Knox.
The boy’s body had signs of strangulation and blunt force trauma, police said.
On Dec. 18, the family went to the doctor for an appointment then went to a supermarket to fill a prescription. At around 12:45 p.m., they got back to the Knox house along Route 157, just a mile from John Boyd Thacher State Park. Brenda Van Alstyne, who is White’s legal guardian, and an unidentified 18-year-old then went to the nearby school to drop off items for a party, Sheriff Craig Apple said at the time.
White was purportedly killed by Tiffany Van Alstyne while her mother, Brenda, was at the school. The younger Van Alstyne was apparently the only adult present at the house at the time of the incident, officials said.
Authorities were called to the house when Van Alstyne called 911 midday on Dec. 18 and told police that two masked men had gone into the trailer, held her down and then took her cousin. An Amber Alert was issued and the boy’s body was found that night haphhazardly buried under six inches of snow, police said at a press conference soon after the incident in the Hilltowns of Albany County.
At the time, Apple said Van Alstyne’s statements started to not add up during questioning and it was found that her story was false.
Van Alstyne was arrested in December and initially charged with felony second-degree murder.
Some family members attended the arraignment Tuesday at the Albany County Judicial Center but they were hesitant to speak with members of the media.
Assistant District Attorney Shannon Sarfoh, bureau chief of the Special Victims Unit, is handling the prosecution of the case.
Van Alstyne, who is being represented by the public defender’s office, was remanded into custody without bail with no scheduled public court dates in the immediate future.
Danielle Sanzone may be reached at 290-8362.