SATSUMA, Fla. - The 17-year-old girlfriend of a man whose 5-year-old daughter disappeared early Tuesday morning told Channel 4 that she woke up, found the kitchen light on, the back door wide open and the girl missing.
Haleigh Cummings was last seen at 10 p.m. Monday in her father's mobile home in Satsuma, where Misty Croslin said she put the girl to sleep in a bedroom with her 3-year-old brother. At 3:30 a.m., the girl was reported missing. By first light, a massive search was under way and an Amber Alert was issued.
Croslin has been interviewed by detectives and volunteered to take a lie-detector test -- which she said she passed -- but had not spoken publicly until midday Thursday when she spoke to Channel 4's Laura Mazzeo.
"I didn't hear anything at all. If I'd heard something, I would have got up and I wouldn't have let them take her," Croslin said.
Croslin said after putting Haleigh to sleep about 8 p.m., she was up doing laundry, which was right by the back door, which she knew was locked when she went back in the bedroom. She said she put a blanket on Haleigh and lay down in a bed nearby.
It's unclear whether Croslin left the bedroom prior to Haleigh disappearing. Croslin's account indicates that she left the room at some point. She said she woke up about 3 a.m. to go to the bathroom.
"I didn't make it to the bathroom. I seen the kitchen light on and I walked in the kitchen and the back door is wide open," Croslin told Channel 4's Laura Mazzeo. "I go in the room and she's gone. And that's all I know. When I went to bed she was there and then when I got up and she was gone."
Police have said they believe Croslin was with Haleigh until waking up at 3 a.m. Investigators said Croslin called 911 to report the girl missing about the time Haleigh's father, Ronald Cummings Jr., came home from working a night shift at his job in Palatka. [Listen To Croslin, Cummings Calls To 911]
Croslin said she and Cummings, 25, had been dating for five months. Cummings had legal custody of Haleigh and her brother.
Croslin said Haleigh and her 3-year-old brother "look at me like their mom."
"I love her like she's my own," she said. "I just want her to come home."
Croslin said she doesn't blame herself, but she's emotionally devastated and just want to know that Haleigh is safe.
"I wished they'd took me instead of her, because I could have fought," Croslin said. "She's only 5; she can't really do anything. What do they want with a little 5-year-old?"
Cummings also spoke Thursday, defending Croslin and addressing rumors that he or his girlfriend were involved in Haleigh's disappearance.
"She had nothing to do with this. I had nothing to do with this," Cummings said. "I have been slandered as a sorry father. Obviously, in most cases, fathers don't get custody of their children. A lot of people are talking like this is a custody battle. It's not a custody battle. It's about finding my 5-year-old daughter."
Haleigh's Mother Has Questions, But Same Plea Crystal Sheffield, who now lives in Baker County, has been in Satsuma since getting word Tuesday her daughter was missing.
Sheffield gets visitation with Haleigh twice a month. The 5-year-old was scheduled to spend this coming weekend with her mom.
"If somebody went in there and grabbed her, they'd have to know her," Sheffield said Thursday afternoon. "Haleigh's not going to wander off or let some stranger pick her up without making a noise. It all sounds fishy to me, but I don't want to make any accusations, I don't want to talk about them. I just want my baby home."
Putnam County Sheriff Jeff Hardy said both sides of the family have done everything asked of them and been supportive of law enforcement in every way.
"Everybody, including the family -- and I want that for the record -- has been extremely cooperative with us," Hardy said.
From Ronald Cummings' statements, it's clear he believes a stranger took Haleigh.
"If you have my daughter and you're watching this, drop her off somewhere safe, call 911, call the local authorities," Cummings said. "If you've done something with her, tell us where she's at. I'm not out for revenge ... I want my daughter back."
Search For Haleigh Expands
Thursday morning, Hardy said that detectives have followed leads and interviewed everyone connected to the kindergartner and were adding new resources to the search.
"We'll expand our investigation as far as it needs to go,? Hardy said. "As far as whether or not Haleigh is still in the area, that is an unknown."
The Putnam County Sheriff's Office said they must assume Haleigh was abducted because house-to-house searches of the neighborhood Wednesday found no evidence that she wandered away.
Cummings, Croslin and other family members and acquaintances -- even an air conditioning repairman that was at the house Monday -- were interviewed and offered lie-detector tests.
Hardy would not confirm who had taken polygraph tests or discuss the results.
The third morning after an Amber Alert was issued, a low cloud ceiling prevented helicopters from being used, but boats and divers were in the St. Johns River, which is only about 1,000 yards from the mobile home park.
Texas Equusearch, a mounted search-and-rescue group that helped search for missing Orlando toddler Caylee Anthony last fall, arrived in Satsuma on Thursday afternoon.
"A fresh set of eyes and they'll be able to cover some of the terrain that's very difficult to get to and they'll be able to get to it by horseback," Hardy said.
Caylee's grandfather, George Anthony, came to the Putnam County command post on Thursday, met with Ronald Cummings, his family and friends, and offered any support the family needs.
"They need the community's support. They do not need to be judged. They do not need to be scrutinized," Anthony said. "They need your help. (The) community needs to come together to help this family to bring this beautiful little girl home."
Celebrity bounty hunter Leonard Padilla, who was also involved in the Anthony case, has offered a $25,000 reward if Haleigh is returned before midnight Saturday.
The missing girl's loved ones have stayed in a tent yards away from Cummings' double-wide mobile home for most of the past two days as they leaned on each other for support.
Putnam County Sheriff Jeff Hardy said early Thursday that searches for Haleigh by air, ground and water would continue through the day. In addition to dozens of deputies and officers from surrounding counties, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI were also involved in the case.
Authorities ask anyone with any information to call the Putnam County Sheriff's Office at 386-329-0800 or the FDLE's Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse at 888-FL-MISSING.
- February 12, 2009: Search For Haleigh 'Will Expand As Far As It Needs To Go'
- February 12, 2009: 48 Hours Pass With No Sign Of Missing Girl
- February 11, 2009: School Prays For Haleigh's Safe Return
- February 11, 2009: Detective: Haleigh's Disappearance Considered Abduction
- February 10, 2009: Family, Friends Pray As Search For Missing 5-Year-Old Continues
- February 10, 2009: 5-Year-Old Vanishes From Bedroom; Father Says She Was 'Stolen'
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