Dad To Haleigh: 'We Will Find You'
Father's Girlfriend Being Questioned Again; Reward Increased To $16,000
PALATKA, Fla. – Ten days after 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings disappeared from her mobile home, an obviously fatigued father faced the news media Thursday, thanking all who have helped searched for the kindergartener, the media for spreading the word and to law enforcement for their tireless efforts to find the girl.
Ronald Cummings also said he doesn't suspect his 17-year-old girlfriend did anything wrong the night Haleigh disappeared.
"I don't have any suspicions of anybody," Cummings said. "Obviously, if I knew what was going on, I would have my daughter."
Cummings became defensive when asked questions about his background, reports that he had a fight with a cousin over a gun, and other events in the days before Haleigh disappeared.
"It's about my daughter gone missing, not what's going on in my life," Cummings said. "People say a lot of things and they don't know what they're talking about."
Haleigh's paternal grandmother, Teresa Neves, said Putnam County detectives told them they have several good leads, but referred all questions about the investigation to the officials.
Cummings ended the 10-minute briefing with a message for his daughter:
"I would like to tell my daughter, if she's watching, baby, I love you and we will find you," Cummings said. "I love you."
Neves' message was to whomever took Haleigh:
"Why don't you have a heart and bring her home?" Neves said.
Family Questioned; Reward Increased
On Wednesday, Cummings and Crystal Sheffield, Haleigh's mother, were brought separately to the Putnam County Sheriff's Office Wednesday afternoon for interviews. The father's girlfriend, Misty Croslin, was brought in Thursday morning.
At a news conference Wednesday, officials downplayed those interviews as routine and said there's no break in the hunt for the girl.
"As leads develop, we will always be going back to the family members," Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent-in-charge Dominick Pape said. "As this case goes on and we feel the need to bring them in, we will. They've been very cooperative with us."
For the first time Wednesday, officials confirmed that a vehicle was seized and processed for evidence, but would not discuss whose vehicle it was or what they may have learned in the search.
In the eight days that have passed since Haleigh disappeared, more than 1,200 tips have poured into a Crimestoppers hot line. The Putnam County Sheriff's Office said they are checking out each one.
"Sooner or later the one we need is going to come up and it's going to make the difference," Capt. Dick Schauland said Wednesday afternoon.
After more than a week of around-the-clock search and investigation, officials were asked if they were discouraged that Haleigh was not located.
"Are we frustrated? Absolutely. We wish we had this resolved day one -- with three hours. But discouraged? Absolutely not," Pape said. "The men and women on this team, they're there every hour, every day giving 100 percent, and they will do that until we get resolution."
Schauland also announced that a Putnam County resident who wants to remain anonymous donated a $10,000 reward. That would be added to a $5,000 reward previously offered by the Carole Sund/Carrington Foundation and the $1,000 Crimestoppers reward for any tip that leads investigators to Haleigh.
Anyone with information about Haleigh's disappearance should call at 888-277-TIPS or the FDLE's Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse at 888-FL-MISSING.
Haleigh's Great-Grandmother Speaks Out, Defends Croslin
A day after detectives said they were following up on a tip that Croslin may not have been at home when Haleigh disappeared, the 5-year-old's great-grandmother, Annett Sykes, said she doesn't believe the tip at all.
Sykes said there is no way Croslin wasn?t home the night Haleigh went missing.
"That's a crock. I went by the house that night. She fed them. She bathed them. Every morning when Haleigh went out to go to school, she looked like she just stepped out of a beauty shop," Sykes said. "Y'all don't know her. Those children love her, and she loves them. I know everybody makes a big deal that she's only 17, and that's true, but she's a lot more mature than a lot of people that I've seen and that I know who are 25 and 30."
Police said they received a tip that Croslin was out instead of home with Haleigh and her 3-year-old brother last Monday night. However, Sykes said that tipster was wrong.
"We have heard rumor after rumor after rumor that has scared the daylights out of us, and it was absolutely nothing but a rumor," Sykes said.
She said she last saw Haleigh outside on the porch eating dinner at 7 p.m. on Monday.
"Her and Junior were sitting up there with a plate in their lap and eating. When we drove up they hollered, 'Hey Granny. Hey Granny,' like they always do," Sykes said.
Putnam County officials said they are looking into the Croslin tip as a possibility, but added it's only one of hundreds of tips they've investigated.
"I don't know that you can say her story is changing," Schauland said Wednesday morning. "All I can tell you is that the tip we're receiving is the tip we're following up on."
Croslin told Channel 4 she is not lying about the situation and she was at home the night Haleigh disappeared.
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