On May 10, Haleigh Cummings will have been missing for a full three months. Although the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office remains optimistic, according to TJ Hart at Blogger News Network, the media, which had circled the story feverishly for weeks after the story broke, seems to have moved on to other popular items.
The Haleigh Cummings missing person story is well known. It has been told countless times in various media markets since the 5-year-old Florida girl disappeared from under her caretaker’s nose as she supposedly slept, but the story hasn’t had a retelling in quite some time. Instead, the focus of the story (for the media) shifted to that of the family members, their squabbling over past transgressions, the marriage of Ronald Cummings (Haleigh’s father) to the under-18 caretaker/girlfriend Misty Croslin, the accusations and allegations of what, who, when, and why as reporters dug deeper and deeper.
And then Haleigh Cummings disappeared again… This time from the media.
It is not an uncommon occurrence, considering the immediacy and relevance of delivering the news in its present format. Media saturation in covering popular stories is common and as popularity fades, so does the coverage. Something about the Haleigh Cummings missing person case caught the public’s attention (because there are thousands of missing persons cases each year and most only gain a little local coverage) and a mystery was shared with millions as national and international news groups took the story and ran with it.
The story was high drama for awhile, splashed all over CNN, HLN, Fox News, and the internet, not to mention all the local media outlets all over the United States that highlighted the story. But as the dysfunctional families that made up Haleigh Cummings’ extended family became the lead stories and no significant leads on the missing little girl presented themselves, public interest slowly waned.
But Haleigh Cummings’ story is not unique. Missing person cases come and go, a tragic train of misery for parents and friends and a constant worry to society. Cold cases, which are what cases like Haleigh Cummings’ inevitably become over time, are shelved and reopened all the time — to add bits of evidence, new leads, and to gain a fresh perspective on the case. Not that the Haleigh Cummings case is a cold case (yet), but without leads to push the case it will become one.
And Haleigh Cummings will go missing again, her case to only be resurrected by new evidence, a confession, a lead. The parents can keep the case alive in the public arena by making appearances and pushing for more to be done (although whether a case continues or is reopened is entirely up to the investigating authorities), much like Natalie Holloway’s parents did with the case of their missing teenaged daughter in Aruba. Just like Brittanee Drexel’s parents are doing with regard to her disappearance in Myrtle Beach just two weeks ago. They will appear on the “Dr. Phil” show next week.
But Ronald Cummings and Misty Croslin have become somewhat quiet since their marriage and a brief appearance on the “Today Show.” Besides a few calls for focusing attention on missing Haleigh, not much has been said of late that did not have to do with Cummings’ job or about the ongoing fight with his ex-wife, Crystal Sheffield, over allegations of spousal and child abuse, both past and present.
And although Ronald Cummings, Misty Croslin Cummings, Crystal Sheffield, family members and attorneys have called for a refocusing on Haleigh Cummings being missing, they do not seem to be as adamant as they should in following their own suggestions. And why hasn’t there been more appearances by Ronald Cummings and Crystal Sheffield on national television, local or national papers, or on the internet in the last few weeks?
The media’s attention comes and goes with a story’s popularity, governed by the vicissitudes of public opinion and market share and, upon occasion, public service. But a family’s interest in the story is not bound by financial considerations and ratings. A family’s pursuit of the story, their pushing of the story of a missing family member, should never grow less forceful or fade.
Because “missing” does not have to mean “gone.”
But there has been a disconnect in the Haleigh Cummings story from the beginning. A 5-year-old little girl was taken from her home in the middle of the night sometime between 10:00 p.m. EST and 3:00 a.m. EST on February 10-11. She was taken from her home while her teen caretaker/babysitter, Misty Croslin, slept less than four feet away in the same room, a highly improbable scenario (but not impossible or implausible). Besides a propped open back door, Misty Croslin’s altered stories of events, and the various rumors, depositions, speculations, allegations, accusations, and insinuations, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office and other local, state, and national law enforcement agencies have found nothing of substance in three months of searching.
Haleigh Cummings is truly missing. She has been for some time. And the underlying mood of this family tragedy is that there is something far more amiss than the simple loss of focus of the media…