Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Father Begs to End Gossip, Renew Focus on Haleigh; at Impromptu Briefing, Ronald Cummings Asks the Public and Media to Keep Searching

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Father Begs to End Gossip, Renew Focus on Haleigh; at Impromptu Briefing, Ronald Cummings Asks the Public and Media to Keep Searching

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL PINKHAM and SCOTT BUTLER

The frustration of 10 days of worrying and wondering, searching and questioning, was evident Thursday all over Putnam County.

In Satsuma, the father of missing 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings pleaded for an end to scrutiny and gossip about his family and a renewed focus on finding his little girl.

In Palatka, the sheriff fought off questions about any link between a sexual predator arrested overnight for breaking curfew and Haleigh's disappearance Feb. 10.

But amid the angst and fear about what happened to Haleigh, there were pockets of light, too. Faculty from an Orange Park elementary school showed up at Haleigh's school with homemade desserts for the staff there, a tradition they started when seven children were killed in a Union County crash in 2007.

And a San Mateo funeral home director set up a fund for people to contribute to Haleigh's family.

Haleigh hasn't been seen since her baby sitter and father's girlfriend, 17-year-old Misty Croslin, put her to bed Feb. 9 in their Satsuma home. Croslin said she awoke to find the girl gone about 3 a.m. and called 911.

In an interview Wednesday with the Times-Union, Croslin denied reports that she left Haleigh and her 4-year-old brother alone. She was back at the Sheriff's Office for more questioning Thursday, which investigators called routine.

Thursday afternoon, Ronald Cummings, the missing girl's father, held an impromptu news briefing and urged people and the media not to make this ordeal about the family. It's about finding his daughter, the 25-year-old said.

He didn't specify the Times-Union report that detailed the family's background, including drug arrests and custody issues, and the interview with his girlfriend. Cummings also said he doesn't have any enemies.

Standing with his mother, Cummings gave thanks to all that the community and law enforcement have done.

"Please bring my daughter home," he repeated, wearing a black hat with the letters G.A.P. for God Answers Prayers.

He also said he doesn't know anything about a fight over a gun with a visiting cousin, mentioned by Croslin in the interview. Sheriff Jeff Hardy confirmed that Croslin's relative had been in town and is now home in Tennessee. He said his office has been in contact with the relative, but couldn't elaborate.

Hardy called the arrest of a sexual predator who lives a half-mile from Cummings' Green Lane home unrelated to Haleigh's disappearance. Timothy R. Loucakis, 50, is charged with violating his curfew as indicated by his GPS monitoring.

The device, however, indicated he was within his "home zone" around the time Haleigh disappeared, Hardy said. A Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman said the home zone wouldn't extend more than 75 feet from the offender's home.

At Browning-Pearce Elementary School, where Haleigh attended kindergarten, Principal Debra Buckles said the faculty was treated to desserts, many homemade, by the staff of W. …

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