A five-day search for a missing Mint Hill teen ended tragically early Thursday when officials confirmed the body of 16-year-old Kayla Campbell was found in a pond off Sable-Cap Road.
The community rallied this week to search for the Independence junior, described by her family as someone who always put others first. Campbell left her Glencroft home at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, for a bike ride with instructions from her parents to be home by 5:15 p.m. She never returned and since then local residents have partnered with law enforcement officers in daily ground searches for Kayla. Her bicycle, helmet and cellphone were found near the pond, located in Mint Hill’s Summerwood subdivision.
Kayla’s body was found at about 12:15 a.m. Thursday after the pond was drained, a process which began the day before. At press time, officials didn’t know how she died and “the circumstances surrounding her death will be the focus of the investigation moving forward,” according to a news release from the Mint Hill Police Department. The department is asking anyone who saw Kayla Dec. 9 between 3 to 5 p.m., specifically in the areas of N.C. Highway 51, Fairview Road, Lawyers Road or Bartlett Road, to call detectives at 704-545-1085.
The police department worked in conjunction with local fire departments and the FBI to search up to 8 square miles surrounding the pond in the search for Kayla or clues that would lead to her. Those searches produced nothing. Police searched the teen’s phone records and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children issued a “Silver” Alert for her in North Carolina. Flyers went up around town this week and the family was using social media to get the word out too, setting up the Facebook page, Help Find Kayla Campbell.
Adams Outdoor Advertising even donated billboard space this week to advertise Kayla’s photo and description.
‘A caring person’
Kayla never thought of herself first, brother Josh, 23, said. The teen, one of three adopted siblings, had a knack for joke telling and making people laugh. Her sister, Shanley, 19, came home from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Monday to help search for Kayla. Kayla was adopted by the Campbells when she was 2 years old and grew up in their home on Dartmoor Place, Josh said.
“She’s bright and bubbly and likes to laugh and be silly and goofy and make other people laugh and smile,” Josh Campbell said Wednesday waiting at the family’s home for word of Kayla. “She loves to laugh and make other people’s day. She’s a caring person and cares deeply for other people. If she needed to do something silly to make you laugh, she’d do it.”
Describing his sister as “a big hugger,” Josh said Kayla was an avid bicyclist who also was passionate about nature, animals and photography.
So it wasn’t unusual that she told her parents, Robert and Stephanie, she was going for a bike ride Sunday afternoon, he said. They insisted she be home by 5:15 p.m. and sent her a text when she was a few minutes late. Kayla messaged back that she was close to home and would be there soon, Josh Campbell said.
But when she hadn’t arrived by 6 p.m., the Campbells called police.
The family attends Next Level Church and the staff and members there have served as a support team for the family this week bringing food and prayers.
“We’ve got a great neighborhood and a great community,” Josh said.
Did you see Kayla?
Police still need the public’s help to determine the circumstances surrounding Kayla’s death. Anyone who saw Kayla between about 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, should call the Mint Hill Police Department at 704-545-1085.