Dad Skips Search for Missing Son

People here have come together to try to find an 11-year-old boy missing since September, with two important exceptions: his father, and the father's live-in girlfriend.

A community search and a candlelight vigil for Richard "Cody" Haynes Jr. (search) took place without Richard "Rick" Haynes and Marla Jaye Harding, who have retained a lawyer and refuse to talk formally with investigators.

"Their behavior is definitely curious," Kittitas Police Chief Steve Dunnagan told The Spokesman-Review in Spokane. "It does make us ask, 'Why does he have to have an attorney to help us find his son?"'

Dunnagan, who leads a two-member force in this central Washington town of about 1,100, said police "don't have squat" in the search for Cody, who was last seen Sept. 11 at his family's home in an old, two-story apartment.

After dinner, he and Harding argued. The boy refused to put leftovers away and do the dishes. As discipline, he was ordered to sit in the kitchen until almost midnight, when he was sent to a second-floor bedroom, the chief said. His four sisters were told to stay away from their brother's room.

"About 2:30 a.m., Mr. Haynes told us he left the home to go looking for car parts," the chief said. The 43-year-old Haynes is a tow-truck operator in Ellensburg (search) who is restoring a 1954 Kaiser, the newspaper said.

In preliminary discussions, the chief said, Haynes told investigators that he drove hundreds of miles before returning home about 4 p.m. Sunday. He reported the boy missing two hours later.

The chief visited the home Sept. 17 but Harding, 39, told him he could not question the girls, the newspaper said. He made a referral for suspected child abuse to Child Protective Services (search) and state workers removed the four girls from the home Sept. 21, the newspaper said.

On Oct. 22, the chief and a detective asked for a formal interview with Haynes. He and Harding went to the police station but when the chief asked for a private interview with Haynes, Harding objected, Dunnagan said.

"At that point, they 'lawyered up' and said they weren't talking anymore," the chief said.

Haynes told The Spokesman-Review he would not discuss his son's disappearance without his attorney present.

"I'm not interested in talking about it. I'm not talking without my attorney present. No way," he said.

Asked if it was possible that his son was dead, Haynes said, "Oh, no, not a chance. He's not dead. He's not dead."

Haynes, whose phone number is unpublished, and Harding could not be reached for comment Saturday by The Associated Press.

The police chief said the boy's mother has served prison time in Florida for child abuse and can't legally have contact with Cody, but she has been eliminated as a suspect.

Cody's disappearance is now posted on the Web site of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The chief said he would welcome any help the public can provide.

"It's a small town," Dunnagan said. "We don't have this kind of thing happen here — ever."