Five Months Later Cops Still Searching for Missing Florida Girl Haleigh Cummings

For Haleigh Cummings' grandmother, it's not knowing what happened to the 5-year-old girl that tears her apart.

Is Haleigh alive or dead? Did someone take her from her father's doublewide mobile home early Feb. 10 or did she wander away in the middle of the night?

"If she is alive, are they taking care of her, feeding her? We wonder if we are going to ever see her again," Marie Griffis said.

Since Day One, the Putnam County Sheriff's Office said it believes the girl was abducted from the home hidden beneath towering trees near the end of a sparsely populated rural dirt street.

Ironically, Haleigh was reported missing just hours before a memorial service was held in Orlando for 2-year-old Caylee Anthony, whose body had been found after months of searching. The victim's mother, Casey Anthony, has been charged with first-degree murder. That case has somewhat overshadowed Haleigh's disappearance because of the heavy news media coverage in the Orlando area.

After searching thousands of acres on foot, on horseback and from the air and following hundreds of leads, digging through trash bins and interviewing dozens of people, the sheriff's office still doesn't have a suspect in Haleigh disappearance. A reward of $35,000 has not broken the case.

"We have to operate on several theories. Stranger abduction is one of them," Maj. Gary Bowling said. "We are investigating every possibility. There any number of things that could have happened."

Investigators quickly contacted all the sexual predators living in the area, about 60 miles southwest of Jacksonville, to eliminate them as possible suspects.

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"We are working on it every day," Bowling said. "There has been a high level of frustration from the beginning of not being able to get to the logical conclusion, solve the case and return Haleigh to her family."

Authorities first learned of Haleigh's disappearance in a 911 call from Misty Croslin, the 17-year-old live-in girlfriend of Ronald Cummings, the girl's father. She told investigators Haleigh was missing when she awoke at about 3 a.m. and noticed the back door was propped open with a brick. Cummings, who worked a night shift at a bridge manufacturing company, arrived home about that time.

Investigators sealed off the area, searching it on foot with dogs and later horses. Airplanes and helicopters looked from the air, while boats plied the nearby St. Johns River.

After a round-table discussion in early June with the sheriff's office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the FBI and the State Attorney's Office, it was announced that there were still more than 4,000 leads being followed.

"We are not ruling out any possibility," Bowling said. Another meeting is expected soon.

While the search continued, a soap opera developed. Haleigh's parents never married, and bad blood developed after they split. Cummings, who had a job, was given custody of Haleigh and her brother.

Cummings' family was barred from the mobile home for several weeks, so they set up a camp down the street, sleeping on cots, watching a big-screen television. About a half-mile away, Haleigh's mother, Crystal Sheffield, and Griffis erected a large tent. Both camps catered to the growing media crowd.

The Sheffield-Griffis family believe Cummings and Croslin have been inconsistent in their stories to authorities. In a TV interview Sheffield also accused Cummings of physically and verbally abusing her while she was pregnant with Haleigh and of hitting the girl. But in another TV interview, she said Cummings is a good father who would not hurt the girl.

About a month after the little girl disappeared, Cummings and Croslin married and then appeared on NBC's "Today" show while on their honeymoon.

After questions developed over the care of Haleigh and her little brother, both Sheffield and Cummings obtained free legal counsel.

A call to Gregory Kimball, an attorney representing Haleigh's father, was not returned and a woman who answered the telephone at the office said Cummings was no longer doing interviews.

Deputies recently searched the property near Glen St. Mary in north Florida where Griffis and Sheffield live. They found nothing.

Griffis believes the case will eventually be solved.

"I still think the police have something. They just haven't put it all together yet. When they get all this evidence in and they can put all this stuff in one big pile, they will tell the people what they have and make an arrest," she said.

Ernie Allen, president and CEO of The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, said while speed is important, someone knows what happened to Haleigh and law enforcement just needs their information to solve the case.

"There is hope that Haleigh Cummings is alive and she is recoverable," Allen said, adding that only a third of stranger abductions result in death.