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Video: Haleigh’s father, new bride speak out

By
TODAY contributor
updated 3/13/2009 9:43:07 AM ET 2009-03-13T13:43:07

The last person to see a 5-year-old Florida girl before she went missing — who is also the new teenage bride of the child’s father — acknowledged that there are inconsistencies in the stories she’s told investigators, but was unable to say why her account has changed.

On Friday, TODAY’s Meredith Vieira asked 17-year-old Misty Cummings — nee Misty Croslin — if she knows that she changed the story of the night Haleigh Cummings disappeared.

“Yeah,” the young woman said.

Vieira asked why there are inconsistencies.

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“I don’t know,” she replied.

Newlyweds in New York
Misty Cummings was joined in New York by Haleigh’s father, Ron Cummings. The couple, who have been together about six months, had gotten married on Thursday in a civil ceremony attended by some 20 people at his grandmother’s house in Florida, touching off a renewed flurry of media attention.

“Why come here?” Vieira asked both.

“To get the focus back on my daughter. My 5-year-old girl is gone and I want to find her,” Ron Cummings, 25, replied. He complained that his marriage to the former Misty Croslin has deflected attention away from his daughter, who has been missing since early in the morning of Feb. 10.

“I think they changed to my personal life and being married and everything else and they should be focusing on my 5-year-old daughter,” Ron Cummings told Vieira.

Despite massive searches and more than 2,000 tips phoned in to the Putnam County (Fla.) Sheriff, investigators have been frustrated in their efforts to find the little girl. Ron Cummings just shook his head “no” when Vieira asked him if investigators have any new leads.

Cummings and his bride say they’ve both taken and passed polygraph tests. NBC News’ Michelle Kosinski reported that Ron Cummings is not considered a suspect in the disappearance, and Cummings told Vieira that the lead detective in the case has told him that Misty is not a suspect either.

Nevertheless, detectives recently called Misty Cummings in for another interview. After being pressed about inconsistencies in her account, she stopped the interview and refused to answer further questions.

Inconsistent interviews
Vieira asked Misty why she ended the interview.

“There was a new guy that was new to the case and I didn’t feel comfortable with him. He was just being very rude to me … He was just like being rude, like yelling and pretty much telling me I was a liar,” she said, adding that she told the lead detective on the case, John Merchant, that she would talk to him, but not to the new investigator.

Image: Ronald Cummings, Misty Croslin
TODAY
Ronald Cummings, father of Haleigh Cummings, and Misty Croslin, the last person to see her before she vanished, were married in a civil ceremony March 12.
The main inconsistency involves where Haleigh was sleeping on the night she disappeared. Misty had originally said the girl was sleeping with her. Yet later she said that Haleigh’s 4-year-old brother, Ron Jr., was in her bed, but that Haleigh was sleeping on a mattress on the floor of Misty’s bedroom.

Both Misty and Ron Cummings also said that reports that Ron Jr. said he saw a man dressed in black are not true. Ron Cummings accused Haleigh’s mother, Crystal Sheffield, of making that story up.

Vieira asked Misty, who wore a T-shirt with Haleigh’s picture on it to the TODAY set, to revisit the events that led to her calling 911 shortly before 3:30 a.m. on Feb. 10.

“I put her to bed at 8 o’clock,” Misty Cummings said. “I was washing our blankets, and after that was done, I put her blanket over her. She was sleeping when I put her blanket on her. She was in her bed, and it was about 10 o’clock. I finally laid down and went to sleep. I woke up at 3. I got up to use the bathroom, and I noticed the kitchen light was on. I walked through the kitchen, and that’s when I noticed the back door was open. So I run back to my bedroom to get my phone to call Ronald. That’s when I noticed Haleigh was gone.”

Ron Cummings works a late shift and said he was just pulling in the driveway when Misty called him. When they couldn’t find Haleigh, they called 911. A massive search for the girl failed to find her.

‘Nobody’s business’
Vieira asked Ron Cummings why he would get married now, with so much attention on the couple and the missing girl.

TODAY
Five-year-old Haleigh Cummings was reported missing the morning of Feb. 10.

“I think that my little girl would have wanted it,” he said before repeating his belief that his wedding shouldn’t be a story.

“That’s still drawing the focus off of Haleigh,” he said. “We need to be focused on Haleigh and not what I’m doing in my personal life … It’s nobody’s business what I do in my personal life. I go to work. I support my family. I don’t know what my personal life has to do with national TV. My daughter’s missing. That’s what has to do with national TV. We need to get her found.”

Vieira asked Ron Cummings if he had anything else he wanted to say.

“If you know something, please call the Crime Stoppers or any local sheriff’s office,” he said, his arms crossed tightly across his chest. “If my little girl is watching, baby, I love you.”

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