http://www.palatkadailynews.com/articles/2011/02/10/news/news01.txtTwo Years Later: Where's Haleigh?
By Julie Martin Published: Thursday, February 10, 2011 12:48 AM EST
Relatives of a young Satsuma girl who vanished two years ago will hold a prayer vigil tonight.
Haleigh Cummings, a 5-year-old blonde-haired kindergartner, was reported missing from her South Putnam home by a babysitter. A massive search came up empty and Sheriff Jeff Hardy last year said investigators believed Haleigh was dead and the case was considered a homicide.
Family members, however, resist that idea.
Haleigh's great-grandmother, who lives in Welaka and will host the vigil, says the family continues to hope the child is alive.
"She's out there somewhere and we're still looking for her," Annette Sykes said.
Meanwhile, since Haleigh's disappearance, authorities have followed up on thousands of leads and invested thousands of man-hours looking for the child, said Capt. Johnny Greenwood, a spokesman for the Putnam County's Sheriff's Office.
"Investigators will continue to aggressively pursue this case to the end," Greenwood said in a statement. "By no means is this case being considered cold."
Haleigh vanished from her home while Misty Cummings, a teenager who was married to Haleigh's father Ronald Cummings briefly, was baby-sitting.
Witnesses from that night have concealed vital information from detectives, Greenwood said.
"There are still individuals who hold important information, which if provided to investigators, could solve this case," he said.
Last April, Putnam County's Sheriff Jeff Hardy labeled the case a homicide after investigators concluded the girl was likely dead.
Despite Hardy's statements, Sykes said she believes Haleigh is alive.
"We are looking for a live little girl," Sykes said. "We don't believe that she's dead. We don't care what the sheriff says."
A prayer vigil for Haleigh will be held tonight at 6 p.m. at Sykes's house located at 216 Fourth Ave. in Welaka.
Vigils marking the first anniversary of Haleigh's disappearance as well as her birthday were held last year, attracting relatives, supporters and television cameras.
"We'll keep holding them every six months or so until she's found," Sykes said.
The family will continue to hope for Haleigh's safe return until investigators provide proof of her death, she said.
"They have not told us or shown us anything that tells us that she's not alive," she said." We have been offered nothing. All we have is one person's word and that's his opinion."
Haleigh was reported missing at 3:27 a.m. on Feb. 10, 2009.
No trace of her has been found despite massive searches by law enforcement officers and volunteers on land and water.
Haleigh's disappearance initially was described by authorities as a child-abduction case. At the conclusion of a three-day April search of the St. Johns River, Putnam County Sheriff Jeff Hardy officially labeled it a homicide.
Then-17-year-old Misty Croslin was babysitting Haleigh the night she went missing.
Croslin told deputies she put Haleigh to bed just after 8 p.m. and went to bed herself a couple hours later. Croslin said she awoke around 3 a.m. to use the bathroom when she noticed the kitchen light on, the door propped open with a cinder block and Haleigh gone.
Haleigh's father, 26-year-old Ronald Cummings, was returning from his night-shift job at PDM Bridge in Palatka when the child was reported missing.
Diving squads, ground searches, bloodhounds and helicopters scoured areas of the St. Johns River and Satsuma woods while door-to-door interviews were conducted and officers searched vehicles at roadblocks.
Two camps were set up in the neighborhood to house the maternal and paternal sides of Haleigh's family. For more than a month, tents remained aglow with hundreds of candles used in nightly vigils while national news media spotlighted the child's disappearance.
A month later, Croslin and Cummings married at Sykes' house in Welaka.
Authorities named Croslin the key to the investigation after her statements to investigators reportedly had numerous inconsistencies about what took place between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. the night Haleigh disappeared.
In January, Cummings, Croslin, Hank Croslin Jr., Cummings' cousin Hope Sykes and a former search volunteer Donna Brock of Orlando were arrested following a month-long narcotics investigation into the trafficking of prescription pills.
They remain in prison today.