Who was 5-year-old HaLeigh Cummings?

Kindergartner disappears without a trace from Satsuma home 10 years ago

By Jennifer Waugh - The Morning Show anchor, I-Team reporter, Francine Frazier - Senior web producer

HaLeigh Cummings was sassy and adorable at 5 years old, with a button nose and a bright smile that her family said would light up the room.

That sweet smile and HaLeigh's blonde hair and big, brown eyes have been seared into the minds of many in Northeast Florida for a decade.

Ten years ago Sunday, the kindergartner vanished from her Satsuma home, prompting an all-out search.

She has never been found.

SPECIAL COVERAGE
Monday: HaLeigh is gone
Tuesday: Reliving the nightmare
Wednesday: Misty's inconsistencies
Thursday: Investigators' theories
Friday: Who was HaLeigh Cummings?

Home video from Christmas Day 2008 shows HaLeigh in a pink top and blue shorts, her blonde hair pulled back into a low ponytail, as she rips into one of her presents to unveil a backpack with a kitten on it.

She shows it to the camera as her grandmother asks, “You got a backpack full of goodies, didn't you?” 

HaLeigh Christmas

HaLeigh grins as she drops the backpack into a large gift bag nearby and reaches for her next present.
Peeling back the paper, she reveals a large-brimmed, floppy, purple hat.

Without hesitation, she pulls it onto her head and smiles widely, dropping her head back so she can see, as the brim falls down over her eyes. An adult can be heard laughing softly. 

HaLeigh toys with the brim, then tugs the hat back before she pulls it off, drops it in the same large gift bag and eagerly pulls over another gift.

She never says a word in the video clip, but her delight is obvious.

Forty-six days later, HaLeigh went to bed next to her little brother with her father's girlfriend, 17-year-old Misty Croslin, babysitting while her father, Ronald Cummings, was working the second shift as a crane operator.

When Ronald Cummings got home, HaLeigh was gone.

Into Thin Air watch this week

Monday: HaLeigh is gone
Tuesday: Reliving the nightmare
Wednesday: Misty's inconsistencies
Thursday: Investigators' theories
Friday: Who was HaLeigh Cummings?
Sunday: Putnam County 10 years later

Croslin told deputies she woke up in the early morning hours of Feb. 10, 2009, and HaLeigh was nowhere to be found.

The back door to the mobile home had been propped open with a cinder block, and HaLeigh's little blanket was found on the back porch.

Investigators do not believe the 5-year-old left her home alone, but no one has ever been charged in connection with her disappearance.

The pain of losing HaLeigh has never gone away for her family, particularly her two grandmothers and her paternal great-grandmother.

Neves Johns SykesPaternal grandmother Teresa Neves, maternal grandmother Marie Johns and paternal great-grandmother Annette Sykes

They sobbed as they shared stories recently of their “miracle” girl.

Before she was born, HaLeigh was diagnosed through a sonogram with Turner syndrome -- which involves a missing chromosome, her paternal grandmother, Teresa Neves, recounted.

Doctors initially thought HaLeigh would be so disfigured at birth that she might not survive.

HaLeigh birthday“She would never have breasts and would never have children,” Neves explained of what the family was told. “She would never have anything that girls had without (getting) hormone shots.”

But their little angel defied doctors' predictions.

“She came and she hardly had anything that you could notice,” Neves said. “We were really, really blessed with her.”

Neves' mother, Annette Sykes, said the family was delighted with the newborn.

“She had all her fingers and toes. She didn't really have any abnormalities that you could see anywhere,” Sykes said. “We were just tickled to death.”

Watching HaLeigh grow from a baby to a toddler to a cherub-faced little girl was true joy, her grandmother said.

HaLeigh and Ronald“I remember HaLeigh would run in the front door, screaming, 'Nana! Nana!' and she would run and jump in my arms,” said Marie Johns, HaLeigh's maternal grandmother. “The next thing she would ask me is, 'Nana, can I listen to my God music?' I had her a little gospel CD, and she had her own little CD player, and that's what she wanted to do.”

HaLeigh, a student at Browning Pearce Elementary School, loved nail polish, make-up, eating macaroni and cheese -- and her daddy.

“They were inseparable. Everywhere Ronald went, HaLeigh went,” Sykes said. “I mean, she latched onto him and she was daddy's girl -- no way around it.”

HaLeigh's great-grandmother treasures a scrapbook of the little girl's memories.

It includes a photo of her cousin, Jermonick “JJ” Luther, holding her. He was 8 years old when HaLeigh disappeared.JJ holding HaLeigh

“I just couldn't think that getting up, she'd never be here again,” Luther said. “I always thought she'd be here the next day when I woke up. But here it is 10 years later, and she's still not here.”

HaLeigh would be celebrating her Sweet 16 birthday this August.

For his 19th birthday in July, Luther said he has only one wish.

“If you're watching out there and you know what happened, please bring my cousin home,” Luther said through tears. “I just want her to be home for my birthday.”

Neves said she's never considered the possibility that she will never see HaLeigh again.

“I will see her again. God will bring her home,” Neves said, fighting sobs. “I'm just waiting on that one person (to gives us the right information), but I will see her again.”

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has released an age-progressed photo of what HaLeigh would have looked like at 12 years old.

News4Jax is hoping renewed attention to this case will generate new leads. Anyone who knows anything about the disappearance of HaLeigh Cummings is asked to call Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida at 888-277-TIPS. Callers can remain anonymous and be eligible for a $15,000 reward for tips leading to an arrest in this case.

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