Cops Dig Up Grandma's House in Search for 5-Year-Old

Some 40 officers and cadaver dogs searched, but found only animal remains.

February 17, 2009, 9:51 AM

June 27, 2009 — -- Police spent the day Friday digging and dragging ponds at the home of missing Florida 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings' grandmother, but found only animal remains.

The new search comes more than four months after Putnam County, Fla., police scaled back their search for the little girl, who disappeared from the Satsuma, Fla., home of her father, Ronald Cummings, Tuesday, Feb. 10. He reported her missing in an desperate 911 call.

Even though an amber alert was issued and police received some 4,000 tips, the girl has not been found and no suspect or person of interest has ever been identified.

"[The search] was initiated because we did a interview with some family members ... and during the interview they wanted to make sure we understood that they had buried some animals here during the investigation," Putnam County Sheriff's Office Capt. Dominick Piscatello said. "With that said, we couldn't leave any stones unturned."

Some 40 people, including divers and members Florida's Department of Law Enforcement, Baker County and Putnam County sheriffs offices, with the help of cadaver dogs, searched the 30-acre Glen St. Mary home of Haleigh's grandmother, Marie Griffis.

The little girl's mother, Crystal Sheffield, also lives there.

"Any searches they do I think is wonderful. I mean, it's never enough for me, until I see her," Sheffield told local TV stations. "It's hard to explain. I mean, I know she's not out here, but it makes me feel better that they did come here. I mean, that's all I can really say."

The only thing the searchers found were animal remains.

"We haven't found anything," Piscatello said. "We did locate the animals they said that they buried. ... It was a horse. We found some bones from some cows and some goats."

The effort Friday was the first physical search for the little girl since March.

Police and Texas EquuSearch, a volunteer group that joined the effort, scaled back their hunt for Haleigh after a week of intensive searching, but they said they had not given up, according to Putnam County Sheriff Jeff Hardy.

"We've not abandoned this search," Hardy said in February. "We don't have all our questions answered and obviously we don't have Haleigh. ... We will go anywhere tips lead."

Even though Putnam County Sheriff's Office Capt. Steve Rose said at the time that authorities were following "several good leads" uncovered while canvassing the little girl's neighborhood and adjacent neighborhoods, nothing ever came of them.

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 in February. "Like I gave up on her? I'm not giving up on her. Never."

The sheriff's office had turned to county, state and federal governments to help 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.

Terrifying Discovery: Haleigh Cummings Disappears

Florida police treated Haleigh's disappearance as an abduction, investigators said early on in the investigation, after concluding she did not simply wander off alone.

"All the world is a suspect," Detective John Merchant of the Putnam County Sheriff's Office told reporters. "We are going to treat everybody, every family member, every associate, like a suspect until we eliminate them."

As police launched a massive search effort that included divers and K-9 units, Crystal Sheffield, begged for her daughter's return.

"Whoever has her, I know you're watching," Crystal told "Good Morning America" in February. "She ain't done nothing wrong. Please bring her back."

Haleigh, whose parents do not live together, disappeared from Ronald Cummings' Satsuma, Fla., home on Tuesday, Feb. 10. He reported her missing in an desperate 911 call.

"I just got home from work and my 5-year-old daughter is gone," he told a dispatcher. "If I find whoever has my daughter before you all do, I'm killing them. I don't care if I spend the rest of my life in prison."

There are 44 registered sex offenders within a five-mile radius of the home.

Police were interested in one sexual predator wanted in Marion County, although he is not considered a person of interest in the girl's disappearance.

Ronald Cummings had left Haleigh and her 3-year-old brother in the care of his 17-year-old girlfriend, Misty Croslin.

"She was sleeping right next to me," Croslin told the Palatka Daily News. "I can't believe I didn't hear anything."

Ronald Cummings told police that when he returned from work early Tuesday morning, the back door was propped open and Haleigh was gone.

"Somebody came in my back door, broke into my home and stole my daughter," he said.

"I don't know why somebody would take her," the mother said. "I'm scared for her. She is probably scared and cold and hungry."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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