A year since Haleigh vanished, Ronald and Misty lost their way long ago

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Normal A year since Haleigh vanished, Ronald and Misty lost their way long ago

Post by Wrapitup on Sun Feb 07, 2010 8:30 am

* By Dana Treen
* Story updated at 1:06 AM on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010

MARKING A YEAR

Events recognizing the one-year mark of Haleigh Cummings' disappearance have taken place or are planned for this week. Saturday, a Hope for Haleigh Prayer Vigil was held at Celebration Park in Glen St. Mary. On Wednesday, a candlelight vigil is planned for Satsuma at Tyler and Monroe streets near where she vanished. Those interested in information about the vigil can contact the Justice Coalition in Jacksonville at (904) 783-6312.

The cast

Annette Sykes Cummings' grandmother, she and his grandfather were guardians of Ronald for nine years.

Teresa Neves Cummings' mother, she lived in Sumter County where her son and his girlfriend Crystal Sheffield stayed with her through his high school years.

Crystal Sheffield Haleigh's mother, she never married Cummings but now lives in Baker County and has custody of their son.

A year since Haleigh vanished, Ronald and Misty lost their way long ago Crystals

Marie Griffis Sheffield's mother, she said she had little contact with her daughter who was 14 when she went to live with Cummings in Leesburg.

Hank Croslin Sr. Misty's father, he said his daughter was the most unruly of his three children.

Hank Croslin Jr. Misty's brother, he was arrested in the same undercover drug operation as Cummings and his sister.

Lisa Croslin Misty's mother, she said her daughter refused to go to school around the sixth grade.

Ronald Cummings was already a volatile man with a drug-related past when he met Misty Croslin, a defiant, barely educated teenager who moved in nearby.

Before they came to define the troubling story of Cummings' 5-year-old daughter, the pair now jailed on trafficking charges lived in a world surrounded by drugs and marked by mistrust, family and others recalled in interviews.

Haleigh disappeared from southern Putnam County a year ago Wednesday.

In the years leading up to that night, Cummings, now 26, had fathered three children and been arrested on drug charges but escaped prosecution. Croslin was a Michigan transplant who quit going to school in the sixth grade and ran off to New Jersey at 15.

Now Cummings and Croslin are awaiting arraignment on the drug charges after undercover investigators orchestrated a series of narcotics buys in December and January that also netted a friend of Croslin's, one of her brothers and a cousin of Cummings.

The arrests end nearly a year that was both sad because of Haleigh and tawdry in the lives it exposed to a national audience.

Ronald

Cummings and his 17-year-old girlfriend had been together for a short time when Haleigh disappeared. They'd met months earlier in their Satsuma neighborhood and seen each other at the school bus stop at the end of Tyler Street where Haleigh was dropped off with Croslin's nephew.

They had also talked when Croslin baby-sat Cummings' youngest son, who lived with a former girlfriend. Croslin warned Cummings he needed to gain custody of the baby because she said the child's mother was a drug abuser who would sometimes disappear and abandon the boy with whoever had him.

Soon Croslin was baby-sitting for Haleigh and Cummings' 3-year-old son, Ronald Jr.

The two became a couple but the relationship was rocky on the Monday night that Haleigh went missing. Croslin spent the weekend partying, although she was home by the time Cummings went to work Monday evening. But Cummings was angry and repeatedly called her brother that night, demanding to know where she was when he couldn't get her on the phone.

Anger and a sense of remoteness had marked Cummings for years, said his grandmother Annette Sykes, who reared him and his sister until Sykes' husband became debilitated by Alzheimer's. Annette and Kirby Sykes had guardianship of the two children beginning when Ronald was 3. He moved out as his grandfather became increasingly ill and was back with his mother, Teresa Neves, in Sumter County by the time he was a young teenager.

After Cummings graduated from high school in Leesburg, he and his girlfriend moved back to Putnam County. They went to his grandparents in Welaka, where his girlfriend became pregnant, but Cummings had changed, his grandmother said.

"He just had a dirty mouth," she said. "He was very disrespectful."

She attributed his ill manners to a bad crowd but found that as her husband - the man Cummings called "Daddy" - worsened and died, her grandson changed, too.

"He doesn't really want anybody to be close to him, I don't think," she said.

Cummings never saw much of his birth father, who lives in Putnam County, she said.

"Everything Kirby did at home, Ronald was right with him," Sykes said. "Every step Kirby took."

Cummings was never the same after his death in January 2002, she said.

From jail, Cummings said his grandfather had been a guiding force in his life.

"He taught me the basics, you know, be good to your women and your children," he said. "Work."

He said he learned right from wrong from his grandfather, and the importance of respect.

"I'm sure he wouldn't be happy I'm in here, that's for sure," he said.

His most serious arrests started after high school.

In October 2001 he was arrested after a Crescent City man said he was threatened at a stoplight and told he would be killed.

He was charged with drug possession in 2002 and 2004, both times after drugs were found with him in cars.

Charges were never prosecuted, according to court records.

Crystal

In Leesburg, Cummings had lived with his mother and Crystal Sheffield, a 14-year-old who came from Putnam County where she met the year-older Cummings.

Sheffield, who would be the mother of Haleigh and Ronald Jr., left school in the ninth grade to be home-schooled but never went any further.

Her mother, Marie Griffis, said her daughter was supposed to visit Cummings in Leesburg for a weekend but never came home. Mother and daughter were not often in touch for the next two years, and Griffis said she sometimes did not know where Sheffield was.

"When Crystal was with him, she didn't have much contact with me," Griffis said. "She never called me. When I called her, she didn't return my calls."

Sheffield, who now lives in Baker County on property beside her mother and stepfather, said drugs including pot and cocaine were part of the lifestyle she and Cummings shared while they were together.

She said Cummings only worked some and the two lived with his mother until they moved in with Sykes in Putnam before Haleigh was born.

"He just didn't like my family," Sheffield said. "He just kind of kept me away."

Sheffield became pregnant with Haleigh at 17. She and Cummings never married but lived with Sykes until their son was born 18 months after Haleigh.

Life with Cummings was difficult, Sheffield said. He was controlling and could be erratic, sometimes with guns.

"I've watched him put a gun in his mouth in front of me and Haleigh," she said.

After separating in 2005, Cummings was given custody of Haleigh and Ronald Jr. because he had a job with health insurance.

Misty

Cummings and the two children were living together when he met Croslin in 2008.

Sykes' first impression of the petite teen came from the children.

"The kids adored her and she seemed to adore them back," Sykes said. "I mean they'd cry to go back to her."

Sykes said she saw another side of her grandson's girlfriend in the months after Haleigh vanished, when Cummings, Croslin and Ronald Jr. moved in with her.

"You can't threaten her or do anything to her emotionally or mentally that will affect her," Sykes said. "She doesn't have the ability."

Sykes said even repeated interrogations by investigators had little impact.

"When the sheriff's department was threatening her and doing all their doings and stuff, it didn't faze her," she said.

Sykes said Croslin's childhood may have dulled her emotionally.

"She basically was here, there and yonder," Sykes said. "I don't reckon she knew from one day to the next where she was going to be."

Croslin was born in Michigan, but the family of five moved to where her father, Hank Croslin Sr., could find drywall work, her parents said. They spent time in Tennessee, her mother's home state, and Colorado before moving to Florida.

When their daughter was in the sixth grade, they were living in Flagler County.

"I'd send her to the bus stop," her mother, Lisa Croslin, said. "She'd never get on the bus. If it was a day she wanted to go, she'd go. If it was a day she didn't want to go, she would hide."

"She can't read," her father said. "She was behind in class just like all of us."

Reading disabilities run in the family, he said.

"I can't read at all," he said.

At about 15, Misty bought a bus ticket under a false name and moved to New Jersey with a boyfriend. After several months and with the help of a social worker, she was found and brought home.

About that time, the Croslins moved to Putnam.

Her father said she began hanging out with Kristina "Nay Nay" Prevatt and Amber Brooks, who is the mother of Cummings' other son.

Both Prevatt and Brooks have drug arrest histories. The weekend before Haleigh disappeared, Misty was with Prevatt.

"That's where all the trouble started, hanging around Nay Nay and Amber," her father said.

He said he couldn't convince her to distance herself from the new crowd. Misty was more trouble than the Croslins' two sons, he said.

"She was the wildest one," he said. "She was."

On Feb. 9, the night after Croslin returned to Cummings' mobile home from the weekend of partying, Sykes dropped by. She said she was upset that Croslin had gone off and left her grandson without anyone to watch over the two kids.

"I was mad because Ronald let her come back," she said. "But it's his house. There wasn't nothing I could do about it other than be mad."

By the next morning, Haleigh was gone.

http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2010-02-07/story/a_year_since_haleigh_vanished_ronald_and_misty_lost_their_way_long_ago_0

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Normal Croslin's, Cummings' lives tied to family, misfortune

Post by Nama on Sun Feb 07, 2010 10:31 am

Teresa Neves is certain of one thing. Before the disappearance of her granddaughter, Haleigh Cummings, the woman who cared for the little girl and her younger brother, Junior, was caring and responsible.

"She loved them," Neves, 50, said of Misty Croslin. "There was no doubt in my mind about that."

Today, Haleigh's paternal grandmother says she doesn't know who Croslin has turned out to be. "I feel that somewhere in those two or three days before Haleigh went missing, she took a wrong turn in life, and that brought her to where she is today," Neves said of the young woman her son dated, married and has since divorced. "I do not feel she is the same person she was when I first met her. It's like night and day."

As for her son, Ronald Cummings, 26, Neves wouldn't talk about the current criminal charges against him, but acknowledged he has made mistakes in the past.

Despite his early missteps, however, her son had moved forward and worked to care for his children, she said.

"He was a very, very intelligent person. He has a very high IQ," Neves said of her son. "He has made some mistakes. You know what they say, they that can cast the first stone. I say that everybody makes mistakes in life. Ronald straightened out his life. His main focus has mainly been his children."

By all accounts, the lives of both Croslin and Cummings showed signs of trouble even before Haleigh's disappearance brought on the scrutiny of law enforcement and the media.

Before her recent arrest on drug charges, Croslin spoke about a Tennessee relative she claimed had "messed" with her when she was younger. In an interview last year, she said she wasn't going to school, and though she had signed up for GED classes, she never attended.

Before his daughter disappeared, Cummings had been arrested on minor drug charges in Putnam County and had cases filed on other allegations involving traffic violations, wildlife violations and trespassing.

Officers later announced he was not a suspect in Haleigh's disappearance, and a Department of Children and Families investigation cleared him of any abuse involving his children.

In a jailhouse interview last month, Cummings told a newspaper reporter that people have developed their own, inaccurate impressions of him.

"I get tired of being judged by people who just look at me," Cummings said. "I'm glad I'm not such a judgmental person."

While officers have said they do not consider Cummings and Haleigh's mother, Crystal Sheffield, suspects in the girl's disappearance, officials have said Misty Croslin's words don't match physical evidence or other accounts from the night Haleigh vanished. And her comments to the media early in the case, when she described what she remembered of the hours before the girl disappeared, have varied.

Croslin's sister-in-law, Lindsy Croslin, described the young woman as "a good girl" and "fun-loving."

"She just got caught up in this," Lindsy Croslin said.

"Misty has never been a leader. She puts her foot in her mouth sometimes," Lindsy Croslin said.

Haleigh's maternal grandmother, Marie Griffis, 44, sees something different. If Griffis were alone with Croslin, she said she might try to shake the truth out of her. In the end, though, she said her heart goes out to the 18-year-old.

"Her life spiraled. The mother in me sees the little girl whose life was shattered even more," Griffis said.

Misty Croslin has said she grew up in Michigan and that she lived in different parts of Florida for about seven years.

Lindsy Croslin says she first met Misty and her brother, Hank "Tommy" Croslin Jr., in Flagler Beach while they were in school. Hank and Lindsy Croslin have been together about eight years now.

"People would just go to the beach and hang out," Lindsy Croslin said. "I met him up there. Me and Misty became friends before me and Tommy even started dating, and so she was like the sister I didn't have as an only child."

Eventually, after she married Tommy Croslin in 2007, they all ended up in Putnam County. Lindsy Croslin's grandparents had a house in Satsuma, and she thought it would be nice to move somewhere else for a change of scenery, she said. Her husband's parents also ended up in Putnam County and had their own place.

At one point before Haleigh's disappearance, Misty Croslin and her parents, Hank Croslin Sr. and Lisa Croslin, moved in with Misty's brother and his wife after Hank Croslin Sr. was involved in a car accident and the family "lost everything," Lindsy Croslin said. Hank Croslin Sr. was hit by a drunken driver, she said.

As she had since high school, Misty Croslin watched her sister-in-law's children. Meanwhile, Misty Croslin's two brothers and father worked together at an electric company.

After the vehicle accident, Lindsy Croslin said Hank Croslin Sr. wasn't rehired at the job because he couldn't work.

He has several medical problems, one of the reasons he has been seeing different doctors and not because he was intentionally "doctor shopping" as was alleged by officers when he was arrested in November, she said.

Those who know her say family has always been at the center of Misty Croslin's world.

That sense of togetherness is part of what Lindsy Croslin, whose family previously had included just her and her father, said she fell in love with when she met Misty and Tommy.

"I thought it was so neat that (Tommy's) parents had been married since 16 and were still together. I thought it was neat that they had a mom and dad," Lindsy Croslin said. "That's how their upbringing is, very close - they all stick together. They all watch out for each other."

From jail in an interview recorded with a reporter, Ronald Cummings described his ex-wife as a friend and said little else about her. He said the only two women he has tattoos for are his daughter and mother. He also confirmed he has a new girlfriend.

He credited his late maternal grandfather, Myles Kirby Sykes, who had retired from the Florida Department of Agriculture, with teaching him "the basics," such as being good to women and children.

"He always took care of me. He was just a good all-around guy," Cummings said. "I'm sure that he wouldn't be happy that I'm in here."

While his grandfather died in 2002, Cummings has remained close with his grandmother, Annette Sykes, 65, who along with her husband helped care for Cummings when he was younger. Cummings said his father was not around much when he was growing up.

Cummings was born in Palatka and later lived in Central Florida, his mother said. He played baseball and football when he was younger.

Cummings said he later graduated from school in the Wildwood area.

When Cummings was with Crystal Sheffield, 24, his now ex-girlfriend, she became pregnant with Haleigh. To support the baby, Cummings said he left ITT Tech, where he had been studying for months and was pursuing a computer technology degree.

His career since, he said, has been in construction. Work became harder to get once Haleigh disappeared and the economy worsened, he said.

Cummings said having steady work and being a good provider later helped him win custody of his children when he and Sheffield vied for Haleigh and Ronald Jr.

Today, with his father in jail, toddler Ronald Jr. is living with Sheffield.

The night Haleigh vanished, Cummings was working a late shift at PDM Bridge in Palatka. Video camera footage from PDM Bridge confirms he was at work that night. Cummings is no longer employed there.

Cummings met Misty Croslin through her baby-sitting, both he and his mother have said. Living in Satsuma then, she had been taking care of her nieces and nephews, who didn't live far from where Cummings and his children were staying.

Cummings and Croslin ended up marrying on March 12, 2009, about a month after Haleigh's disappearance. Seven months later, they were divorced in mid-October.

In jail, Cummings was asked by a reporter why he put himself in a bad spot with the new drug charges. "I don't know man. I don't even know," he said.

To pass the time, Cummings said he has been reading the Bible in jail. "I've been going to church since I was knee-high to a grasshopper," he said, citing Bible verses that he said give him "a little hope."

Neves said her son shares her focus.

"If they get something out of Misty and this is what it cost him, this is all we care about ... Haleigh coming home," she said.

But Neves also worries about what will happen if Misty Croslin has been telling the truth or can't remember any more information about the night her granddaughter vanished.

"Law enforcement has spent a year waiting to be able to question her to be able to find out what she knows. If they're wrong, we've wasted a year," Neves said.

http://www.gainesville.com/article/20100207/ARTICLES/2071006/1002?p=6&tc=pg

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