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Friday, February 13, 2009

'Items of interest' found during Haleigh Cummings search

Right: Haliegh's mother Crystal Sheffield tries to comfort dad Ron Cummings

The Associated Press
February 13, 2009

SATSUMA - Searchers recovered "items of interest" today as they scoured rural Putnam County for signs of missing Haleigh Cummings, Capt. Steve Rose of the Putnam County Sheriff's Office said during an afternoon press briefing.

He confirmed that the items had been found, but declined to elaborate further. "I can't go into any further detail as to what those objects are," he said.

Rose said that investigators are also continuing to reinterview Haleigh's family. He said that those interviews were not triggered by the items' discovery, and that investigators have not told the family what those items are. "We are starting from square one just to make sure there isn't anything we missed," he said.

Law enforcement officers were assisted today by more than 200 volunteers with members of Texas EquuSearch. "We had a very productive day," Rose said, adding that EquuSearch will resume its efforts tomorrow.

Putnam County Sheriff Jeff Hardy just wrapped up a news briefing about the search for missing 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings. "Listen, we have actively investigated and pursued over 350 leads that have come in to date. So we are not just going to limit this search to Putnam County. We'll go where ever it takes us."

He would not address media reports about inconsistencies in statements given by the 17-year-old girlfriend who reported Haleigh missing. She told investigators she was sleeping in the same bed as Haleigh and her 3-year-old brother before Haleigh was discovered missing. But Misty Croslin told reporters Thursday she was sleeping in her own bed before discovering Haleigh was gone.

Hardy also said searchers are expanding the area of the search, but he would not give details. About 50 law enforcement officers, 100 volunteers and 20 agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are in Putnam County and helping with the investigation and search.

Hardy said evidence has been sent to the FDLE crime lab in Jacksonville for testing but he would not say what is being tested.

He also said all 44 registered sex offenders in the nearby area have been interviewed and their residences searched.

-- Sentinel Staff reports-----From the Associated Press,
updated 4:34 p.m.----...Putnam County Sheriff Jeff Hardy said about 50 volunteers with Texas EquuSearch, including some on horseback, are combing areas of thick brush and marshland looking for Haleigh Cummings, who disappeared early Tuesday. The search area was widened beyond the initial 5 miles from the girl's home. Investigators believe she was abducted. "We are still extremely concerned about her safety and whereabouts," the sheriff said.Hardy said the girl's family members will be interviewed again, but refused to say exactly who.

The girl's parents are divorced and the she was being watched by the father's 17-year-old girlfriend, Misty Croslin, when she vanished from the father's home.Hardy refused to comment on the family members authorities have talked to or whether their stories were consistent.The sheriff said investigators have looked into more than 350 leads, but have not made any arrests. "The world is a suspect," the sheriff said.

Several dozen sex offenders and predators living in the area have all been interviewed and their homes checked, Hardy said. Dominick Pape, special agent in charge of the Jacksonville office of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said forensic evidence collected during the investigation such as DNA and fingerprints would be a priority.

About 20 agents are working around the clock at a command center parked near the doublewide mobile home where the girl went missing. "We have yet to make a recovery and we are working toward that," Pape said. The sheriff's office was called about 3 a.m. Tuesday when the father, Ronald Cummings, returned from work and his girlfriend said the child missing.

The blue mobile home is located in a wooded area off a dirt road. Toys are strewn around the yard and it is still blocked off by yellow crime tape and a deputy parked in a car."The bottom line is we have a 5-year-old girl missing and we don't know where she is," the sheriff said.

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