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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Former Tenant Talks About Haleigh's Home

Right: layout of Cummings rented mobile home.
SATSUMA, FL -- The floor creeks, the back door sticks and makes a scraping noise, and you can feel other people walking in the house.

That's how Dr. Jessie Smallwood describes the mobile home where 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings disappeared.

Smallwood lived in it nearly a decade ago.

When we called him this morning -- 1 week since Haleigh was reported missing -- Smallwood says it "shocked" him and "chilled" him to know his old home is now at the center of a massive search that's made national headlines.

"We've been watching it on TV, and we've been saying, 'Boy, that looks so familiar,'" he recalls, "'That looks just like the house that we used to live in."

Smallwood stresses that the next owner(s) may have made upgrades to the rickety structure, but he remembers complaining often about the home to his landlord.

"If someone was even trying to creep across the house, the floor creeks," Smallwood explained by phone. He was also so concerned about the back door not being secure, he and a friend installed a sliding lock.

"My son was a short 9," Smallwood tells us, "and we put the latch up too high for him to reach."
But when asked if the door could be opened even with the latched locked he said, "A man could [open it]."

Smallwood and his wife now live in Claxton, Georgia, but during that year they spend living at 202 Green Lane in Satsuma, Florida, Smallwood says the nights were scary for his then 9-year-old son.

"He was scared of the dark, and we had a security light put in there," Smallwood says, and goes on to describe the area around the mobile home. "If there was no security light, it was pitch, absolutely black."

Smallwood also gave some insight to the surroundings if someone were targeting the home.
"You could park down in the trees," he explains, "if you were going to abduct someone, all you would have to do is sit back there and no one would see you watching the house."

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