Police Question Father of Missing Florida Girl, 5

Published February 11, 2009

| FoxNews.com

Investigators in northeast Florida questioned the father of a missing 5-year-old girl who his girlfriend says wasn't in her bed when they checked on her, police told FOXNews.com.

Putnam County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Jason Nettles said he didn't have information on whether or not Haleigh Cummings' father, Ronald Cummings, and girlfriend are suspects in her Tuesday disappearance.

"I don't know that for sure," he told FOXNews.com.

Both were interviewed Tuesday by authorities. The child lives with the couple in Putnam County, Fla.

"The girlfriend and the father are cooperating with police," Special Agent Steve Donaway of the Florida Dept of Law Enforcement told an afternoon news conference.

Investigators also were interviewing others in the case, according to Nettles — including sex offenders in the area.

Local and state authorities and the FBI searched Tuesday for Haleigh in neighbors' homes and vehicles leaving her neighborhood on the St. Johns River.

An Amber Alert was issued Tuesday for Haleigh, and authorities with dogs and ground search crews were hunting in the nearby river and woods for signs of the girl, who apparently disappeared before dawn.

"It could be an abduction. We're looking at it from all angles," Donaway said. Leads have been minimal, he said, and investigators are asking for the public's help.

Haleigh was reported missing after her father's girlfriend told police she discovered the child wasn't in her bed about 3 a.m. Cummings said his girlfriend was awake and frantic that Haleigh was missing from her bed.

The woman said the back door to the home was not locked at the time. Police found the door to the trailer unlocked when they arrived, but no sign of forced entry, according to Donaway.

Several registered sex offenders reportedly live in the vicinity of the missing girl's home in Satsuma, Fla. Donaway said they've all been identified, and either have been or will be interviewed by police.

Nettles said he couldn't confirm whether authorities were worried a sex offender might have abducted Haleigh.

"I don't think they've ruled anything out," he told FOXNews.com.

He declined to comment on one report that put the number of registered sex offenders nearby at 25 because he said he didn't know how wide an area was being considered.

Haleigh is 3 feet tall with blond hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a pink shirt.

Donaway said search teams would continue to look for the child through the night.

Local and state authorities and the FBI searched Tuesday for Haleigh in neighbors' homes and vehicles leaving her neighborhood on the St. Johns River.

Anyone with information about the girl is urged to contact the Putnam County Sheriff's Office at (386) 329-0800 or 911.

Click here for more on this story from MyFOXTampaBay.com.

FOXNews.com's Catherine Donaldson-Evans and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/02/11/police-question-father-missing-florida-girl-5