On opposite sides of the country, police investigating the cases of little girls who seem to have vanished without a trace received information that could break the floundering investigations. Haleigh Cummings, 5, disappeared from Satsuma, Florida February 10. In McCleary, Washington, Lindsey Baum,10, left a friend’s house and never made it home the night of June 26.
Could the followup on tips received in both cases lead to one or the other of the little girls being found soon? Will the imbalance of publicity affect the outcome of the two investigations?
New Tip in Haleigh Cummings Case Potentially Volatile
In Putnam County, Florida where Haleigh Cummings disappeared, a witness who dropped off a letter purportedly disclosing what happened to the little girl at the St. Augustine Record offices Wednesday voluntarily contacted police late Friday and participated in an hour long interview after learning that police wanted to speak with her. The woman purportedly acted only as a messenger in delivering the letter about Haleigh Cummings to the Record.
The letter was addressed to Associate Editor Richard Prior. Prior called the letter contents “amazing” and said that if the claim in the letter proves true, it will be “volatile,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Prior explained, “It’s very specific about, very specific, some stuff that allegedly happened to Haleigh,” according to Gainesville.com.
The Record decided to hold off on printing the letter at the request of law enforcement.
Capt. Dick Schauland of the Putnam County Sheriff’s office told the Sentinel that if the information in the letter proves true, it could be very helpful in solving the Haleigh Cummings case. He told NEWS4JAX that the letter “…has to do with the whereabouts of Haleigh.”
Inferences Drawn from Reports of the New Haleigh Cummings Tip
While police have declined to make public the contents of the letter, one important inference can be drawn from news reports on the latest letter from a tipster in the Haleigh Cummings case. That inference is that whatever the letter says about Haleigh Cummings’ whereabouts does not explicitly implicate Ronald Cummings in her disappearance. Richard Prior shared the letter with Cummings before contacting the police. Had the letter implicated Ronald Cummings in any way, it’s unlikely that the editor would have contacted Cummings and shared the contents of the letter with him, rather than going directly to police.
An inference that should not be drawn is that police reference to Haleigh’s whereabouts implies that it is the location of the girl herself and not her body the letter helps pinpoint. The PCSO’s Chief Deputy Rick Ryan blasted some of the media coverage this week that presented an alleged affidavit stating Haleigh Cummings died from an overdose of oxycontin as if it were fact, thus, as he described it, killing off Haleigh in the media. PCSO noted that it will publicly operate on the assumption that Haleigh Cummings is alive during the investigation.
Search Warrants Served in Lindsey Baum Case
On the other end of the country in McCleary, Washington,The Daily World reported Friday that McCleary police served multiple search warrants after receiving credible evidence that may help them locate Lindsey Baum. Fifty searchers from in and around McCleary plus FBI agents are searching two adjacent properties for clues to the disappearance of Lindsey Baum, according to KING 5 News. After 9 hours of searching at one location, police told KING 5 News that there were no major developments. Resumption of the search on Saturday yielded boxes of potential evidence gathered pursuant to the warrants.
The police have not disclosed any specifics as to what prompted the search but the search warrants themselves will become public documents 5 days after their execution and may give the public additional insight into the investigation.
KOMO News reported one of the sites searched was a dilapidated house and another a house with junk cars in the yard, whose residents were asked to leave when the warrant was served. KOMO News learned from Sgt. Steve Shumate of the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office that investigators were gathering evidence that include fibers and hairs, looking for any clue about what happened to Lindsey.
Shumate said in an interview with KIRO televison that police were looking for the clothing that Lindsey was wearing when she disappeared or any other trace of her. Police are interviewing the family who lives on the property.
Lindsey’s mother Melissa Baum told KIRO that she believes her daughter is still alive and she is hoping that the new search will provide answers.
A previously planned candlelight vigil for Lindsey Baum marking the three month point in her disappearance went forward Saturday evening in McCleary, Washington.
Disparate Media Coverage of the Baum and Cummings Cases
The Lindsey Baum case, by contrast with the Haleigh Cummings case, has garnered much less media attention and few public clues as to what may have happened to the McCleary, Washington pre-teen.
The Baum case is not as sensational as the Cummings case, in part because the Baum family and associates appear to be mainstream. The Cummings family and associates have earned their milieu the nickname Dysfunction Junction, with arrests for illegal drug use, battery, and forgery, allegations of child abuse, underage sex, and myriad other less than stellar behaviors.
Are dysfunctional lifestyle choices actually an aid to the Haleigh Cummings investigation, keeping the story in the headlines?
The apparent abduction of Lindsey Baum is of no less importance than the abduction of Haleigh Cummings, yet the absence of tawdry entertainment value associated with its reporting seems to minimize the news coverage.
Although there were big breaks in both cases this weekend, what seemed to generate the most news coverage was Lisa Croslin’s arrest of forgery charges. Lisa Croslin is the mother of Misty Croslin Cummings, the teenager responsible for Haleigh’s care when she disappeared. Police in Putnam County have said the forgery charges against Lisa Croslin are unrelated to the Haleigh Cummings investigation.
While these most recent criminal charges against a relative of a key figure in the Haleigh Cummings investigation garnered wide publicity, the vigil marking the 3 month point in Lindsey Baum’s disappearance passed largely unnoticed.
Sources: Daily World; Orlando Sentinel; KOMO News; KING5; Myfoxorlando; First Coast News; News4JAX; Blogger News; National Vigil for Hope; Daily World; Gainsevilledotcom;