I spent considerable time today wading through articles writing up the case of five-year-old Haleigh Ann-Marie Cummings, which I plan to post tomorrow. She’s been missing from Florida since February; disappeared from her bedroom in the middle of the night. The case has gotten a lot of media attention due to Haleigh’s blonde cuteness and due to the mudslinging in her family.
There has been a lot of criticism of Haleigh’s dad, Ronald, and his seventeen-year-old girlfriend (now wife) Misty Croslin. Misty was the last person to see Haleigh before she disappeared. There are reports that she wasn’t even in the trailer when Haleigh vanished, that she’d gone out and left Haleigh and her brother alone. She denies this. Ronald has been criticized for cohabiting with a minor, and both of them were criticized for getting married a month after Haleigh disappeared. Ronald’s ex, Haleigh’s mom, has accused Ronald of child abuse and neglect. It’s worth noting that Ronald had had custody of both their children for years and the mother, Crystal Sheffield, only saw them every other weekend. Ronald says Haleigh’s mother hasn’t been employed in a long time, is behind on her child support and has abused drugs. Sheffield says Ronald was abusive to her during their relationship and abused the children after he got custody. (Curiously, she never went to the DCF with her allegations until some weeks after Haleigh disappeared.) For what it’s worth, Ronald’s been arrested a few times on minor drug charges, but usually the cases were dropped or he got deferred adjudication.
As for the police, they’re not saying much. They won’t say whether Ronald and Misty passed their polygraphs. (They say they did.) They won’t say whether they believe Misty’s story. They do say no one has been ruled out as a suspect at this point but they’re not focusing on any one person right now. I think they’re doing the best they can.
To make matters even muddier, I’ve never seen so confusing and inconsistent reporting. It was like every article told a different story about the events of February 9 – 10. I’m not sure how much of the inconsistencies are actually Misty’s (another thing she’s been criticized for), and how much are the journalists’.
And for me…I have no idea what happened to Haleigh. Not a clue. Not even a theory. It’s all up in the air right now. But I do think the media has been excessively harsh on Misty and Ronald. Recent events have made me very reluctant to criticize or judge a reported crime victim based on their post-crime behavior (i.e. the sudden marriage).
I don’t think I have any problem with Misty having charge of the children, either, just because of her age. A lot of people are like “his UNDERAGE girlfriend” and “the children were being looked after by a MINOR.” Um, Misty was less than one year from her majority, at an age where many girls have their own kids, and she’d been living away from her parents for some time. She was 17, not 12, and there’s no real difference between a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old except the legal one. The tendency of people these days to assume a teenager is completely helpless and incapable of being responsible for anything seriously disturbs me. (For more about that, read The Case Against Adolescence by Robert Epstein or Harmful to Minors by Judith Levine. Both of them are very good.)
But getting back to Haleigh: whatever happened, I hope the police figure it out soon and Haleigh comes home, one way or another. I don’t like it when little children vanish without a trace and are missing long enough to wind up on my website.