Haleigh Cummings Likely Dead, Search Area is Crime Scene, Says Sheriff

Haleigh Cummings (Family Photo)
(Family Photo)
Haleigh Cummings (Family Photo)

SATSUMA, Fla. (CBS/AP) - Haleigh Cummings, the 5-year-old missing for over a year, is likely dead, lying at the bottom of the St. John's River about five miles from her house, the Putnam County Sheriff announced Thursday.

PICTURES: Haleigh Cummings Missing

Sheriff Jeff Hardy said that the search, which entered its fourth day with 20 to 30 divers combing a small stretch of river, is "like looking for a needle in a haystack."

Haleigh vanished from her father's home in Satsuma, in northeast Florida, in 2009. Her father's 17-year-old live-in girlfriend, Misty Croslin, was baby-sitting Haleigh at the time.

Haleigh Cummings and father Ronald Cummings (Family Photo)

She told investigators she woke up to find Haleigh gone and a back door propped open with a brick.

Croslin, in handcuffs and jailhouse blues, joined investigators on a dock in the middle of the search area Wednesday, but Sheriff Hardy declined to elaborate on what she was doing there.

Detectives have reportedly identified persons of interest in the case and more witnesses are coming forward, according to Sheriff Hardy.

"People are starting to cooperate, that's why I've told people it's only a matter of time," Hardy said. "It's a good thing. People are starting to talk."

Croslin and Haleigh's father Ronald Cummings, are currently jailed for drug charges unrelated to the girl's disappearance.

The new search for Haleigh has been hindered by murky conditions but some items have been recovered from the river and Sheriff Hardy says they will not stop until they find the body.

"We're willing to take the effort and time to look for the needle," Sheriff Hardy said Thursday.

PICTURES: Haleigh Cummings Missing

April 15, 2010 - Haleigh Cummings Update (PHOTOS): Search Area Now Called Crime Scene, Misty Croslin Arrives in Cuffs
April 14, 2010 - Haleigh Cummings Photos: Slideshow of Missing Girl, Search Continues One Year Later
April 14, 2010 - Haleigh Cummings New Hope?: Divers Search Murky River For Missing ChildJanuary 22, 2010 - Haleigh Cumming's Father, Ex-Stepmom Arrested in Drug Sting