SATSUMA — Investigators were treating the disappearance of a 5-year-old North Florida girl as an abduction Thursday and continued searching for the child.
The Putnam County Sheriff's Office said investigators assume Haleigh Cummings was abducted because house-to-house searches of the neighborhood Wednesday found no evidence that she had wandered away.
Haleigh's father, Ronald Cummings, also said he didn't believe that she had wandered from home in the middle of the night.
"I know somebody took her. I know for a fact she didn't wander off — she's afraid of the dark," Cummings told NBC's Today on Thursday.
Haleigh's mother, Crystal Sheffield, also believes someone took her daughter.
Haleigh was last seen Monday night in her father's mobile home in a heavily wooded area north of Satsuma, a community along the St. Johns River about 70 miles north of Orlando.
Haleigh was reported missing when her father returned home from work early Tuesday. His girlfriend told a local newspaper that she had been sleeping next to Haleigh when she woke up and discovered the child was gone.
The girlfriend, 17-year-old Misty Croslin, told a 911 dispatcher that a back door that was usually locked had been propped open with a brick.
Sheriff Jeff Hardy told Today that searches by air, ground and water would continue Thursday. Investigators also were interviewing the 44 sex offenders living within 5 miles of Ronald Cummings' home.
Satsuma, a small community in southern Putnam County, is not much more than a wide spot in the road. It boasts a convenience store and a small restaurant. Amtrak trains roar through the town on a regular basis.
Most of the residents are retired or work at the Georgia Pacific paper mill in Palatka, about 10 miles away, said Audrey Strickland, a waitress at Memas restaurant.
Strickland said the abduction was the talk of the town, worrying many of her customers.
"It's too weird," she said. "It's every parent's worst nightmare."