New Searches, Larger Reward In Hunt For Haleigh
Reward Increased To $20,000 For Information About Haleigh's Whereabouts
SATSUMA, Fla. – Dozens of law enforcement personnel on Friday searched deep in woods south of the mobile home where 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings disappeared 11 days ago.
Neither that search, a result of a lead, nor a search conducted of the area where a sex offender visited after his curfew turned up anything useful, Putnam County Sheriff's Office Capt. Dick Schauland said Friday afternoon.
Investigators would not provide any specifics about either a possible sighting of Haleigh outside a Tennessee restaurant or interviews with a cousin of Misty Croslin -- the 17-year-old girlfriend of Haleigh's father and the last person to see the 5-year-old.
Family members told Channel 4 that a relative named Joe visited the Cummings' home and left hours before Haleigh disappeared.
Friday morning, Croslin told Matt Lauer on the "Today Show" that she doesn't trust that cousin and doesn't know if he's involved in Haleigh's disappearance.
"He's a criminal, pretty much," Croslin said. "He's been in trouble his whole life."
Investigators pressed for information Friday confirmed that Misty's cousin had been interviewed, but wouldn't say if they had officers in Tennessee.
"We're continuing to follow up any leads that are generated anywhere," Florida Department of Law Enforcement special agent Dominick Pape said. "All the relatives have been interviewed, and Joe is a relative."
In Tennessee last Sunday, a woman called 911 saying she saw a little girl who looked like Haleigh getting into a red Toyota Rav4 in the parking lot of a Carabba's restaurant.
The woman said it appeared that the man was attempting to shield the girl's face.
"I don't believe that she would go into a restaurant and not cry for somebody," said Teresa Neves, Haleigh's paternal grandmother. "I can only pray it was her because that means she's alive and eating well."
Knoxville police and the Florida Highway Patrol searched the area, but they could not find the vehicle.
The only major announcement at Friday's news briefing was that the reward was increased by $4,000.
"That brings the reward to $20,000 for any information regarding Haleigh's whereabouts and/or the conviction of the perpetrator of any crimes involving her," Schauland said.
Mother Pleads For 5-Year-Old's Return
With 11 days passing and no work on Haleigh, her mother said it feels like "her heart is being ripped out."
Thursday evening, both of the missing child's parents, Ronald Cummings and Crystal Sheffield, spoke out and asked for their little girl's safe return.
Haleigh's parents stood close to each other at the evening's candlelight vigil, praying for their missing daughter. They said they are not giving up on Haleigh.
After the vigil, Sheffield had a message for the person who has her child.
"I hope you're watching this every day and see how much it hurts our families, and I hope it eats your heart out your chest," Sheffield said. "She's just a baby. It's torn my heart out of my chest, and I hope it's doing the same to you."
Both Cummings' family and Sheffield's family have been sleeping in tents near the home from which Haleigh disappeared in order to be around whenever news breaks about the girl's whereabouts.
"I feel helpless, but I'm here and I'm not leaving until she's home," Sheffield said.
Earlier in the day, Cummings' girlfriend, Misty Croslin, was taken to the sheriff's office once again for more questioning. Detectives have remained tight-lipped about what was discussed with the 17-year-old.
"I hope she's telling the truth ? because my kids they love her. I hope she wouldn?t do nothing to hurt them," Sheffield said.
The Sheffield family said they plan to make buttons, T-shirts and hats to try to add to the $16,000 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.
Sex Predator Arrested; Police Say Arrest Not Linked To Haleigh's Disappearance
A registered sexual predator who lives one mile from the mobile home where Haleigh disappeared 10 days ago was arrested Thursday, but Putnam County Sheriff Jeff Hardy said there's no direct link to the girl's disappearance.
Timothy Randolph Loucakis, 50, was charged with violating the terms of his probation after officials said he was not home at 10 p.m. Wednesday night, which violated his curfew.
"We know where he was, by GPS, and we do have a team going down to that area just to do a preliminary search of that area," Hardy said Thursday afternoon.
Hardy said Loucakis was interviewed two hours after Haleigh was reported missing early the morning of Feb. 10. Deputies searched his home and checked his GPS monitoring bracelet, which showed he had not left his "home zone" during the time Haleigh disappeared.
Later that day, officers with the Florida Department of Corrections also visited Loucakis the same morning the Amber Alert being was issued for Haleigh.
"I'm not going to exclude anybody," Hardy said. "This man is a sex predator -- that means he's a dangerous individual."
Channel 4 learned that Loucakis was sentenced to five years in prison in 2001 on a conviction of promotion of sexual performance by a child and was to remain on probation with GPS monitoring until December of this year.
Hardy also confirmed Thursday that detectives received unconfirmed sightings of Haleigh in Tennessee and they have questioned a Tennessee relative of Misty Croslin -- the girlfriend of Haleigh's father who was the last person to see the 5-year-old.
"We're questioning a lot of people," Hardy said. "We have polygraphs going on as we speak."
Croslin herself was brought to the sheriff's office for additional questioning on Thursday, but Hardy said her interview was routine and she will be returned to her home later in the day.
On Wednesday, Cummings and Crystal Sheffield, Haleigh's mother, were each brought to the sheriff's office for interviews.
"As leads develop, we will always be going back to the family members," Florida Department of Law Enforcement's 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."
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