Putnam Chief: 'We're As Optimistic Now As We Were On Day 1'
Mother's, Father's Come Together For Joint Prayer Service
SATSUMA, Fla. – Overcast skies and occasional rain did not stop more than 200 volunteers and officials with more than 17 local, state and federal agencies searching for a fifth day for 5-year-old Haleigh Ann-Marie Cummings.
Haleigh was last seen when she was put to bed at 10 p.m. Monday in her father's home just north of Satsuma. Five hours later, the girl was reported missing by her father and his girlfriend.
With an Amber Alert issued, a growing numbers of investigators have arrived in southern Putnam County in what became a massive search for a kindergartner who authorities came to believe was abducted.
Late Friday, after an expanded search by a team of trained search-and-rescue volunteers turned up several "items of interest," the mood was upbeat.
As Saturday's search came to an end, Putnam County Chief Deputy Rick Ryan said the crime lab had ruled those items out as evidence and nothing new of significance had turned up.
Ryan said the lack of progress does not have them discouraged.
"We're as optimistic right now as we were on day one. Of course we're frustrated ... but we haven't lost our motivation or our drive," Ryan said. "We're not going to stop looking for her."
Families Come Together
While the families of Haleigh's mother and father have been at odds parts of the week and held separate candlelight vigils each night, both sides came together Saturday night for a prayer service.
Crystal Sheffield said the hope of getting her daughter safely home is the only thing that keeps her going.
"Everybody's here for you," Sheffield said. "If you're watching these, your momma misses you, daddy misses you ... your whole family misses you and we will bring you home."
The Search Goes On
While the search area is quiet overnight, about 20 agents work around the clock at a command center parked near the doublewide mobile home where the girl disappeared.
Volunteers with Texas Equusearch accompanied by law enforcement officers plan to be back out Sunday look for anything out of the ordinary, such as fresh tire tracks, beaten-down brush, burn marks, clothing or anything that's out of place in the environment.
Our philosophy is that if it doesn't grow there, we'll want to look at it," Ryan said.
The weekend search also includes the use of high-tech equipment, including some SONAR devices and thermal-imaging cameras.
Ryan said that after Sunday's search, the agencies will evaluate whether they will continue searching the immediate or expand to new areas.
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.
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