Another Florida child is missing. Haleigh Cummings of Satsuma, Florida, has been missing since Friday night. An Amber Alert has been issued for the 5-year-old girl who was last seen when she went to bed. It is unclear to investigators whether the child was abducted or wandered off on her own. There was no sign of forced entry into the mobile home where Haleigh Cummings lived but the police did find a back door to the residence open.
The Associated Press reported that police conducted a house-to-house search for the missing child Wednesday while divers investigated the waters of the nearby St. John’s River. Checkpoints were set up to the entrance of the residential area to check vehicles coming and going.
The father of Haleigh Cummings, Ronald Cummings, told the police that he found his daughter missing when he got home from work at 3 a.m. Tuesday morning. He reported that his girlfriend, Misty Croslin, was frantic when he arrived. Haleigh was missing from her bed. Apparently, Croslin had been asleep beside Haleigh Cummings but found the little girl missing when she awoke.
“She was sleeping right next to me,” Misty Croslin told Palatka Daily News. “I can’t believe I didn’t hear anything.”
Ronald Cummings made the 911 call. He told the dispatcher: “I just got home from work and my 5-year-old daughter is gone. If I find whoever has my daughter before you all do, I’m killing them. I don’t care if I spend the rest of my life in prison.”
The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office is treating the case as one of abduction – to be thorough — although it has yet to be officially classified as such. Spokesman for the sheriff’s office, Lt. Johnny Greenwood, said, “We’re currently working both angles – did she wander off, we’re working it that way with the searches. And investigators are doing interviews in case it is an abduction.”
The case has drawn considerable attention as soon as the news broke, possibly because of its proximity to Orlando, which is the home of Casey Anthony, the 22-year-old mother accused of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee Anthony. But it is also about the same distance from Homosassa, Florida, were 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford was abducted from her home and murdered in February 2005.
Connect For Kids (CFK), a child advocacy organization, reports that, although it is well publicized that some 800,000 children are reported missing each year, it is not reported that nearly all of those children are quickly found or return home without incident. However, that does not take away from the gravity of true abduction/kidnapping cases. CFK states that about 200 to 300 children are kidnapped in the traditional sense each year and that 3,200 to 4,600 returned home after being molested or sexually abused in some fashion. Another 140,000 return home after either being injured in a variety of ways or assaulted.
As time goes by, it becomes increasingly doubtful that the case of a missing child will result in a happy reunion. But all cases of missing or abducted children do not end as did those of Caylee Anthony and Jessica Lunsford. Some end relatively well, such as in the case of Elizabeth Smart, the young girl abducted from her Utah home in 2002 who was found nine months later in the company of a self-styled messiah (Courttv.com). Smart is now enrolled at Brigham Young University, a music student and political activist. In 2006, Elizabeth Smart was part of the campaign, according to Deseret News, to enhance federal legislation concerning sex offender registration. In 2008, she contributed to a pamphlet on advice for victims trying to deal with child abduction for the U.S. Department of Justice.
Putnam County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Jason Nettles told Fox News that he had no information on whether or not Haleigh Cummings’ father, Ronald, or his girlfriend, Misty Croslin, were suspects in the case. The couple were said to be cooperating in the investigation and both were interviewed by authorities Tuesday.
The homes and vehicles of friends and neighbors were searched in a massive manhunt Tuesday. Family members have also been interviewed.
There are several registered sex offenders in the area, but police would not say definitively whether they were particularly worried about that angle. Nettles said, “I don’t think they’ve ruled anything out.” He would not confirm a report that there were 25 sex offenders in the area being investigated because he said that he did not know the extent of the search area involved.
Description: Haleigh Cummings is approximately 3 feet tall, has blonde hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a pink shirt.
Anyone having any information regarding her whereabouts or about the circumstances surrounding her disappearance is asked to contact the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office at (386) 329-0800 or to simply dial 911.