The search for Haleigh Cummings, the little 5-year-old girl that went missing on February 9 from her home in Satsuma, Florida, is still “proceeding at full force” Sheriff Jeff Hardy said in a statement Monday, February 23. Haleigh Cummings’ case was quickly considered a missing person case and was being treated as an abduction hours into the investigation.
Just days after a tip that sent investigators into a wooded area a few hundred yards from home, Putnam County Sheriff Jeff Hardy issued a statement that the daily news briefings would be suspended. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the statement noted that the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) had shared with the public everything it could that would not jeopardize the investigation. “Sheriff Jeff Hardy determined that all information that can presently be disclosed has been reported,” the statement read.
Days before, on Friday, WFTV reported that PCSO investigators were joined by other area law enforcement and first responders to conduct a physical ground search in response to a tip that had come in overnight. About 70 searchers were engaged in the operation, the first since ground searches were suspended last Monday.
The Sentinel reported that about 140 searchers were used searching two separate areas Friday.
The searches turned up nothing.
But the investigation has received over 1600 tips thus far, according to Putnam County authorities. One of those leads led the investigation to Tennessee, where a cousin of Misty Croslin, the 17-year-old girlfriend of Haliegh Cummings’ father, Ronald, lives. Apparently, “Joe the Cousin” (as he is being referred to) had been visiting in Satsuma about the time Haleigh Cummings turned up missing.
As is the case in many of these ordeals, rumors abound. There have been reports that “Joe the Cousin” was a pedophile. There have been many who have corroborated that they had heard the rumor, but as yet no official confirmation has been forthcoming from police officials about any such peculiarity with regard to Misty Croslin’s cousin. The PCSO did say, however, that they did not know if “Joe the Cousin” was a pedophile or not.
Misty Croslin, appearing on NBC’s “Today Show,” told Matt Lauer that she did not trust him. When asked why by WFTV, she said, “I just don’t.” When pressed, she said, “He has had a lot of trouble his whole life.” Croslin said she would not say why she did not trust her cousin on television.
Another rumor centered around an argument that Ronald Cummings had had with “Joe the Cousin” on the same day that Haleigh Cummings went missing. Ronald Cummings denies that there was such an argument. “There was no fight with a cousin over a gun,” Cummings said. “I don’t know where people are getting their information from, but people say a lot of things and they don’t always know what they are talking about.”
And Ronald Cummings may be correct. With any mystery – and given time – rumors far outpace the facts. A word said in speculation might be taken as fact. An extrapolation might be turned into a false lead. And facts can be construed to fit defined or predetermined limits.
This is known: Haleigh Cummings is missing. She has been missing for two weeks. The longer it takes to find her, the less likely the news will be favorable when they do. Rumors are a part of every investigation. Sometimes a rumor will lead an investigation in the right direction. And sometimes rumors are all law enforcement officials have to go on.
And going on is what matters in the case of a missing child like Haleigh Cummings…
WFTV”Today Show,” NBC Television