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 Exclusive: Haleigh Cummings’ Last Day

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PostSubject: Exclusive: Haleigh Cummings’ Last Day   Sat Sep 19, 2009 7:44 am

Exclusive: Haleigh Cummings’ Last Day
September 9th, 2009



Satsuma parents remember Haleigh Cummings’ last day at the bus stop

By Art Harris, The Bald Truth, © www.artharris.com, all rights reserved

Jerry Santos, a neighbor or Ronald Cummings, may have been among the last few people to see Haleigh Cummings before she vanished. It was Monday, Feb. 9, and he’d just walked his children to the bus stop in Satsuma when Ronald came racing by, in such a hurry, he later told investigators, Haleigh’s father “ran a stop sign” and came too close for comfort.

“He missed me by five inches,” Santos says in an exclusive interview with The Bald Truth at www.artharris.com. Later that day, Santos and his girlfriend, Stephanie Mullis, say they spied Misty Croslin in the car pool line at the bus stop, driving a van that picked up Haleigh, and her younger cousin, Austin, now 5, an inseparable playmate who used to run from Haleigh as she chased him in the yard, trying to plant a kiss.

“He misses her terribly,” says his mother, Lindsay Croslin, who often joined Misty at the bus stop.

While these car pool parents can’t plug the crucial gaps in conflicting accounts of what Misty says happened later Monday night Feb. 9, between 8 p.m. (when she says she put Haleigh to bed) and 3:27 am the next morning (when she called 911 to report the child missing), sources close to the case say they help shed crucial light on a young couple in conflict and factors that could have contributed to making Haleigh vulnerable to a kidnapper, or killer.

When she got off the bus, Haleigh was happy, according to Mullis, who saw the child running towards a van Misty was driving. By some accounts, Misty seemed “drawn,” agitated.

With her window rolled down, and Misty just feet away, Mullis says she overheard Misty on the cell phone griping about “the bad shit” she’d gotten from someone she vowed to never deal with again. Mullis says she also heard Misty’s stern, expletive-laced admonition to a little boy in the car to behave, then says she saw her “smack” the child before Haleigh got in the car. “I was shocked,” she says.

We’ll be playing our interviews with several bus stop parents whose accounts on The Bald Truth, sources say, are consistent with the stories they gave in interviews with law enforcement, as part of a group of some 140 witnesses the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, FDLE and the FBI have interviewed while trying to unravel the frustrating case of the missing six year old that has baffled them for over six months.

At the heart of the case, experts have focused on Ronald’s relationship with Misty, hoping it will yield insight, wondering why he’d marry — and stay married to — the young woman police say has not leveled with them. “You know the saying, you keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” Ronald told me months ago in Satsuma.

“He told us the same thing,” says Tim Miller of Texas Equusearch who arranged polygraphs and other testing for Misty at her request.

That morning, Ronald was in a hurry. Santos tells me Ronald later explained he was speeding because he was upset Haleigh was missing. “No, Ronald, this was before Haleigh went missing,” Santos reminded. Then he says Cummings said she’d spilled something on her blouse and he needed to get a change of clothes. Santos says Ronald’s tinted windows prevented him from seeing Haleigh or Misty, who claims she walked Haleigh into school before returning home to crash for a couple of hours.

Later that day, according to my timeline, the school bus driver, and teachers confirm Haleigh took the bus home. She she hops off in Satsuma, Misty is waiting. It’s about 3 p.m., shortly before Ronald heads for work at PDM where his lawyer says he arrived maybe a half hour early for a five p.m. shift as a crane operator. He was scheduled to get off at midnight, but worked until 3 a.m., because extra work on a barge had to be done, my sources say.

At 8:30 p.m., cell phone records show a call between the couple who, sources tell me, fought over Misty’s desire to do some outside babysitting that night after he’d learned of her wild child excursion with Nay Nay and White Boy Greg Page just days before. No way, said Ronald, who kept texting, and leaving voice mail, but couldn’t reach her for hours — until she finally picked up her cell phone about 3:15 a.m.

Caught on convenience store security video, Ronald had just stopped at a nearby Handy Mart to buy beer, peanuts and cigarettes for them both, Miller says Ronald told him, raising questions why he’d be so considerate to a girlfriend who’d apparently been dodging his calls and playing around.

What happened between between those calls could be a matter of life and death for the missing child, and detectives are also looking at calls Misty apparently made to a brother, Timmie, who detectives interviewed Saturday on Cape Cod —and who had been in Satsuma when Haleigh vanished. At the same time, sources say looking at what happened earlier on Haleigh’s last day has helped investigators understand the curious dynamic between a 26 year old single father and the young babysitter Ronald first spied as she walked to the bus stop with her family last winter.

While Ronald recognized Santos as the tattoo artist who had drawn Haleigh on his back several years earlier, Jerry had to be reminded. “Oh yeah, how you doing?” he asked, as the two fathers began to run into each other in the morning as they put their kids on the school bus in Satsuma. The Croslin family also showed up with school age children in tow, and one morning, Ronald saw Misty for the first time among the Croslin pack.

“He asked me what I thought,” Santos tells me in our interview, posted at artharris.com, remarking how young she looked, and only half joked and only half joking, “Ronald, 15 will get you 20.”

Soon, they were a couple, and Misty moved in, babysitting Ronald’s children, Haleigh and Junior, her little brother. “She’s the best girlfriend Ronald has ever had,” said Teresa Neves, Ronald’s mother, when we spoke in Satsuma after their Today Show interview.

Bus stop parents, Santos and Mullis, and another grandfather who is a regular but asked to remain nameless, insist it was Misty who picked up Haleigh the last day she went to school—not Ronald.

However, Ronald maintains he picked up Haleigh, drove her home on his lap, then went to work at PDM Bridge Company. Other unidentified witnesses back Ronald’s account, according to sources close to the case, but I never found them.

Like the famous Japanese movie, Rashoman, where more than a dozen eye witness accounts of the same crime differ, the Haleigh Cummings case has been plagued by so many witnesses with faulty memories, conflicting accounts, and downright deception, it’s been a nightmare for investigators who quickly ruled out stranger abduction to focus on those close to the family, then zeroed in on the last person to report Haleigh alive—Misty, the 17 year old babysitter Ronald married a month after his daughter vanished.

Misty maintains her innocence, says she loves Haleigh dearly and would never do anything to harm her, or expose her to danger.

http://www.artharris.com/2009/09/09/exlusive-haleigh-cummings-last-day/#more-2796
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