PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. – Ronald Cummings — the father of Putnam County 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings, who disappeared in 2009 — appeared in court Monday morning following his arrest on Christmas Day, about two months after his release from prison.
Cummings, 39, of Welatka, is facing a list of felony charges, including, resisting a law enforcement officer with violence, battery on an officer, obstruction of law enforcement by depriving means of communication, trafficking at least 7 grams of oxycodone, and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription. He also faces misdemeanor charges of possession of marijuana and drug equipment possession. Cummings’ arrest report also shows he was cited for alleged possession of an open container.
According to the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, a 911 call came in to dispatch at 11:59 p.m. Saturday, Christmas Eve, and then a deputy, along with fire-rescue personnel responded, shortly after midnight Sunday, Christmas Day, to a single-vehicle crash with a possible vehicle fire at the intersection of Sisco Road and Olivia Lane in Pomona Park.
When the deputy arrived, according to the Sheriff’s Office, a man, identified as Cummings, was found sitting in the driver’s seat of a Hyundai Sonata that appeared to have hit the Olivia Lane road sign. The car was running and in drive, and the man “appeared to be sleeping or unconscious,” according to Cummings’ arrest report. The report also notes that “a full glass bottle of Hennessy liquor” was in his lap.
The deputy turned off the vehicle and told Cummings to get out, the Sheriff’s Office said. Cummings did try to exit the car but then sat back down and tried to start it, the Sheriff’s Office said.
That’s when, according to the Sheriff’s Office, the deputy pulled Cummings out of the car, and Cummings pushed the deputy, started to reach for the deputy’s agency-issued firearm and tried to pull the gun from the holster.
“As I was trying to place the male’s left arm behind his back, he put one of his hands on the grip/handle of my agency-issued Glock 17 and began pulling in an upright manner. I believed the male was trying to gain possession of my firearm to use it,” the deputy wrote in the arrest report.
As the deputy attempted to restrain Cummings, he hit the deputy’s radio, knocking it to the ground, the Sheriff’s Office said.
“The deputy was able to take Cummings to the ground and secure him with the assistance of fire-rescue personnel,”
After Cummings was secured, according to the Sheriff’s Office, he began rapping to the deputy, “You think I’m scared of prison?”
He was taken to a hospital for medical clearance before being booked into the Putnam County jail, deputies said.
The report notes that “Ronald stated 3 times that he was willing to provide a breath sample at the jail.”
“It should be noted that due to the Intoxilyzer 8000 being out of date of compliance, I was unable to perform a DUI investigation,” the deputy continued to write in the report.
Cummings on Monday morning made his first appearance on the charges.
During Cummings’ first appearance, Assistant State Attorney James Nealis said, because Cummings committed several felonies after being released just two months ago, he’s a danger to the community.
“What’s really concerning to the state, your honor, is this violence against law enforcement involved a defendant who threatened law enforcement and then tried to pull that law enforcement officer’s own gun off his belt,” Nealis said. “In a world where law enforcement has a target on their backs a man who attempts to deprive officers of their guns is by definition a danger.”
Nealis recommended a $300,000 bond for the charges, but Judge Howard McGillian decided on a bond of $185,500.
Cummings was not on probation through the Florida Department of Corrections at the time of his arrest Sunday, deputies said.
Cummings was released from prison in October after pleading guilty to drug trafficking in 2010, the year after the disappearance of his 5-year-old daughter, and receiving the mandatory minimum sentence. He was never a suspect in her disappearance, according to Putnam County deputies, because he was working that night. He has told prosecutors that he has no information as to what happened that evening and has maintained all he wants is for his daughter found.
The question prosecutors may pose now is whether Cummings ever held back information. After Cummings was originally arrested in 2010, prosecutors pushed to see if he had any knowledge of what happened to his daughter. Cummings has publicly said he does not. But Belkis Plata, a defense lawyer not affiliated with this case, suspects prosecutors will once again tell Cummings they’re open to a deal if he has any information that may tell them whatever happened to his daughter.
“We hear about that a lot. When officers will bring someone in on something that’s not that serious, trying to get information on something much more serious,” Plata said. “So I would assume if he has any information on his daughter’s whereabouts, it’s always going to be a topic of conversation.”
Plata also told News4JAX that prosecutors likely won’t be lenient on Cummings like they have in the past.
“I would imagine this time around, he’s not going to get the minimum,” she said.
The Sheriff’s Office considers the case into HaLeigh Cummings’ disappearance an unsolved homicide.
The HaLeigh Cummings case
HaLeigh Cummings 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’ 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.
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
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 on the case.
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.
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.