HaLeigh Cummings’ father to be released from prison

Ronald Cummings was never a suspect in his 5-year-old daughter’s disappearance

HaLeigh Cummings’ father, Ronald Cummings, will be released from prison on Wednesday.

HaLeigh Cummings’ father, Ronald Cummings, will be released from prison on Wednesday.

He pleaded guilty to drug trafficking in 2010, the year after the disappearance of his 5-year-old daughter.

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office considers the case an unsolved homicide. Ronald Cummings was never a suspect because he was working that night.

Ronald Cummings; his girlfriend, Misty Croslin; her brother, Hank Croslin; and Donna Brock were all charged with drug trafficking as the result of an investigation that began before HaLeigh Cummings’ disappearance. They all pleaded guilty or no contest and got sentences ranging from 15 to 25 years. Brock was released from prison on Monday. Hank Croslin is set to be released in March. Misty Croslin isn’t set for release until 2031.

Ronald Cummings’ mother told News4JAX on Tuesday that she will be picking her son up from prison.

Jay Howell, founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said he hopes the development will raise awareness of the case.

“He’s (Ronald Cummings) always said he’s wanted to resume the search for his daughter and any attention to the case is helpful,” Howell said.

The HaLeigh Cummings case

Haleigh disappeared from her home in Satsuma on Feb 9, 2009. The Sheriff’s Office said the last person to see her was her babysitter, Misty Croslin. While Ronald Cummings was working that night, others were at the house the night the 5-year-old girl disappeared — Hank Croslin, Misty Croslins’s cousin, Joe Overstreet, and maybe two other people. From the start, investigators said they were not getting consistent statements from Misty Croslin and others.

The St. Johns River was searched, repeatedly, because the next morning, bloodhounds brought in went right to the river. Nearby ponds were searched, and one was even drained. The Sheriff’s Office brought Misty Croslin and the others in for questioning for months, but no trace of the child was ever found. On April 15, 2010, Sheriff Jeff Hardy announced HaLeigh Cummings was most likely dead, and the case was being worked as a homicide.

On the day marking two years since her disappearance, the Sheriff’s Office released a statement saying the ongoing investigation has “minimized the likelihood that HaLeigh’s disappearance is the work of a stranger,” and those who know what happened still won’t tell investigators. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI also worked the case.

Age progression photo from National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shows HaLeigh Cummings on the left at age 5. The right shows what she's believed to look like at age 16. (News4Jax.com)

Misty Croslin, Ronald Cummings, Hank Croslin and Brock were arrested in January 2010 for allegedly trafficking in pain pills. It was an undercover operation that had been going on for months. Joe Overstreet was questioned but never charged with anything.

HaLeigh Cummings’ grandmother, Teresa Neves, and her great-grandmother, Annette Sykes, continue to cling to hope the girl is alive somewhere, despite the statements from the Sheriff’s Office. HaLeigh Cummings’ mother, Crystal Sheffield, and her younger brother were last known to be living in Baker County.

On the day marking 10 years since HaLeigh Cummings’ disappearance, Putnam County investigators acknowledged that they believed she died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs and that her body was placed in the river.

In 2019, 10 years after the disappearance of HaLeigh Cummings, News4JAX launched a podcast that chronicles the cold case. “Into Thin Air,” a true-crime series hosted by I-TEAM reporter Jennifer Waugh, retraces the sequence of events from the night the child vanished and the seemingly endless search for answers that followed.

LISTEN: “Into Thin Air” Episode 1: HaLeigh is gone | Episode 2: Where is HaLeigh? | Episode 3: What happened to HaLeigh? | Episode 4: The trail runs cold

Putnam County resident Charlie Robinson told News4JAX that he hasn’t forgotten what happened.

“A friend of mine was a diver with the county, and he was out in the river searching for her body,” Robinson said. “Everybody would love to know what happened to her.”

If you have any information about what happened to HaLeigh Cummings or about her whereabouts, call Northeast Florida Crime Stoppers at 1-888-277-8477.

About the Authors:

Scott is a multi-Emmy Award Winning Anchor and Reporter, who also hosts the “Going Ringside With The Local Station” Podcast. Scott has been a journalist for 25 years, covering stories including six presidential elections, multiple space shuttle launches and dozens of high-profile murder trials.