In the News
Another Little Girl Lost
Questions and suspicions abound
-Julie Ryan Evans
The news came last week … another little girl lost, taken, vanished.
Haleigh Cummings, just 5 years old, disappeared from her Florida home in the middle of the night, before the sun rose on February 10.
Haleigh’s family was interviewed, the search parties sent out, and speculation began. Suspicion immediately was thrust upon the family – namely Haleigh’s father, 24-year-old Ronald Cummings, and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Misty Croslin, with whom Haleigh lives in their double-wide trailer.
Croslin has been questioned several times, and her wavering answers just bring about more questions: Was she or wasn’t she in the room when Haleigh disappeared? Was Haleigh wearing a pink t-shirt or not? Was Croslin even home at the time Haleigh is thought to have disappeared? And why did she wait to call police until Cummings came home?
To throw yet another twist into this melancholy maze, the family has been under investigation by Florida’s child welfare agency for reasons that haven’t been disclosed due to privacy regulations. Croslin and Cummings both claim to have passed lie detector tests, but authorities have yet to confirm.
When confronted with probes into his background and a recent fight over a gun with a cousin, Cummings rebuffed, “It’s about my daughter gone missing, not what’s going on in my life,” Cummings said. “People say a lot of things and they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
In recent days suspicion has turned to Misty’s cousin, who was visiting from Tennessee when Haleigh disappeared. Haleigh’s mother, Crystal Sheffield, says she has been told he is a “sexual pedophile”. A reported sighting in Tennessee of a girl resembling Haleigh with a man who appeared to be trying to cover her face, has furthered the focus on the cousin.
Croslin appeared on the Today show and didn’t defend her cousin at all when Matt Lauer asked if she was convinced he wasn’t involved. “I’m not quite sure at all. No . . . He’s a criminal pretty much, he’s been in trouble his whole life. I don’t trust him,” she told Matt Lauer.
Another sexual predator in the area is in custody, but police say it’s for an offense not related to Haleigh’s case. So for the time being, it appears that once again family and acquaintances are the focus in a gruesome, heart wrenching case.
We’ve grown accustomed to immediately suspecting families when children are harmed or go missing, when really, in an ideal world – a right world – a family would be the last place anyone would ever look for a suspect. Families and the friends they bring into their lives are the ones children should be able to count on above all others to nurture, to provide, to love. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. We’ve seen it too many times – mothers, fathers, uncles, boyfriends, harming innocent young children who trusted them.
Statistics support our skepticism. According to the United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Juvenile Justice Bulletin, June 2000, less than one-quarter of all juvenile kidnappings are committed by a complete stranger. The remainder is committed by family members or acquaintances of the victim.
And really, don’t we let out a sigh of relief when it appears it’s not a random act that could happen to anyone … to us? It doesn’t make us ache for the victims any less, but we want to believe that we’re sheltered from such atrocities because of the lifestyle we lead, because our relatives could never do that. But who really thinks theirs could … until they do? And for the victims and their families, it doesn’t really matter; it doesn’t make their fate any less outrageous – if they know the perpetrator or not.
For now, for Haleigh and her family, we ache, we hope and we pray that this is one lost little girl who is found … safe and sound.