Florida Sheriff Scales Back Expensive Search for Haleigh Cummings

Authorities continue to follow leads; search hits sheriff's office budget.

ByABC News via GMA logo
February 17, 2009, 9:51 AM

Feb. 17, 2009 — -- After a week of intensive searching, police and a volunteer group have scaled back their effort to find missing Florida 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings but have not given up, according to Putnam County Sheriff Jeff Hardy.

"We've not abandoned this search," Hardy told a news conference Monday. "We don't have all our questions answered and obviously we don't have Haleigh. ... We will go anywhere tips lead."

Today, Putnam County Sheriff's Office Capt. Steve Rose told reporters that authorities are following "several good leads" uncovered while canvassing the little girl's neighborhood and adjacent neighborhoods on Monday.

Through the ordeal, Haleigh's family has shown similar dogged determination.

"If I lost hope, what does she have left then?" Haleigh's father, Ronald Cummings, told ABC News' Orlando affiliate WFTV Monday. "Like I gave up on her? I'm not giving up on her. Never."

Texas EquuSearch, a volunteer group that aided in the search, also concluded its search of the Putnam area to no avail, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

In the face of mounting expenses that the search has accrued for the sheriff's office, Hardy is seeking help from county, state and federal governments to fund the effort, according to WFTV.

Hardy met with county commissioners Monday about the problem.

"He told me that at some point they were going to have to come to us, they thought, because they would have exhausted their budget with what they have," Putnam County Commissioner Nancy Harris told WFTV.

Despite the budget constraints caused by overtime, fuel and equipment costs, the sheriff's office still has dozens of officers tracking down local leads. But Hardy said the law reaches beyond Putnam County.

"Any valid tips we will follow anywhere across the United States," he said.