Authorities Scale Back Search For Haleigh, Not Investigation
Chief Deputy: 'We're Just As Enthusiatic ... As We Were On Day One'
PALATKA, Fla. – After a sixth day of searching for 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings turned up "nothing of significance," authorities said they are close to wrapping up the ground operation and on Sunday moved the command center from the neighborhood to the Putnam County emergency operations center.
Haleigh vanished from her father's mobile home just north of Satsuma within hours of going to bed Monday night. She was reported missing by her father and his girlfriend, who authorities said have cooperated fully with the investigation.
"We're still treating it as an abduction because, as we said early on, that brings out the highest level of response," Putnam County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Rick Ryan said Sunday afternoon.
Since an Amber Alert issued Tuesday morning, a massive search of southern Putnam County has continued, involving up to 200 volunteers and more than 100 local, state and national law enforcement officers.
Ryan said that other than a couple of select areas, they were suspending the search and focusing more on the investigation, which was the reason the command center was moved from a trailer in Satsuma to county offices in Palatka, where investigators will continue processing more than 500 leads that have come in.
"We're just as enthusiastic today about it as we were on day one," Ryan said, while also saying that going nearly a week without a sighting or solid lead is frustrating.
"This is not 'CSI.' We cannot wrap it up in an hour. We wish we could," Ryan said. "These men and women are working their tails off."
Ryan dismissed reports that a missing or absconded sexual predator from nearby Marion County was connected to Haleigh's disappearance. While a warrant is out for the arrest of Chad Reynolds, Ryan said deputies checked out reports that the offender had connections or family ties in Putnam County and found them unfounded.
Search-And-Rescue Team Leaves Disappointed
After three days of searching the area on horseback and all-terrain vehicles and using high-tech equipment, the volunteer search-and-rescue team Texas Equusearch was preparing to leave Satsuma.
"The hardest thing about our organization is for every person involved to put this kind of effort into it and walk away empty-handed," Equuasearch founder Tim Miller said Sunday night. "It's heart-breaking, it truly is. But you what? When you look at the whole picture, we did everything right. Our hearts were here, our compassion was here, we was focused on what we was doing -- she just isn't here."
Ryan said that local search teams will be on standby in case new information creates a need to search a new area.
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."
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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