Somewhere in the four blocks between her house and her friend’s house in rural Washington state, a 10-year-old girl disappeared in 2009 and was never heard from again.
Hundreds of officers, volunteers and cadaver dogs repeatedly combed through the small town of fewer than 2,000 people in search of Lindsey Baum, a brown-haired, brown-eyed girl who loved “Harry Potter” and “Twilight.” Thousands of dollars in reward money produced countless tips, but nothing led to the girl, who vanished in McCleary, Wash., on June 26, 2009 — less than two weeks before her 11th birthday.
“I just need my daughter home. Lindsey, please come home, you’re not in trouble,” Melissa Baum said, according to a 2009 article by the Daily World newspaper in Aberdeen, Wash.
Nearly 10 years later, the search for Lindsey ended. A new one — this time, for the person responsible for her death — began.
Last September, hunters found human remains in a remote part of eastern Washington. The remains were brought to an FBI lab in Virginia for DNA analysis. Several months later, Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott, who has been involved in the investigation since 2009, announced that they were Lindsey’s remains.
“I’m here today to share with you that we’ve brought Lindsey home,” Scott said at a news conference Thursday. “Sadly, she was not recovered as we and her family had hoped and prayed these last nine years.”
Investigators believe the girl was kidnapped after she left her friend’s home that night and was later killed.
“For the last nine years, we’ve not been able to say definitively what this was beyond it was a missing child,” Scott said. “Certainly, the prayers and hopes of the family is that we would someday find her alive and bring her home. Now, the reality is we need to find a homicide suspect.”
Scott declined to share the location where her remains were found, only saying that it’s seasonally visited by hunters. He also declined to answer questions about what led investigators to believe that she had been killed.
The sheriff’s office in Kittitas County, more than 100 miles from McCleary, said Saturday that the remains were found there, in a steep, heavily timbered area with large cliffs and deep ravines. Searchers combed the area over the weekend looking for evidence in connection to the girl’s death.
Lindsey was last seen around 9:15 p.m. on June 26, 2009, when she was supposed to walk the four blocks to her home. Her mother reported her missing later that night.
The girl’s family immediately dismissed notions that she might have run away or was hiding.
“If she had been hiding, she would have come out by now,” Melissa Baum told the Daily World newspaper shortly after her daughter disappeared. “She can’t hide that long; she loves to talk.”
Lindsey was also afraid of the dark and wouldn’t have just wandered around; she was superstitious about it. To her, midnight to 1 a.m. was the “witching hour,” her family told the Daily World.
Her father, Scott Baum, pleaded for her return as he faced a deployment to Iraq without knowing what had happened to his daughter.
“Please bring my daughter home,” he said at a news conference in July 2009, according to media reports. “I’m fixing to deploy to Iraq, and tomorrow is her birthday.”
In October 2009, investigators released a search warrant outlining suspicious activity and inconsistent statements that led them to a man living outside McCleary, the Daily World reported. The man had been involved in disturbing conversations about Lindsey and had previously been accused of sexual assault. But investigators did not find any evidence of wrongdoing in the man’s home.
As the first-year anniversary of Lindsey’s disappearance approached, Scott, then the undersheriff, announced that investigators would ramp up their efforts. Witnesses would be re-interviewed, and areas in and around McCleary would be searched again, Scott announced.
“We’re going to be here as long as it takes,” Scott told reporters at a news conference in April 2010, according to the Olympian. “We’re still as tenacious in our investigation as we were from Day One.”
Nine years into the investigation that has now taken a different turn, Scott promised to “bring the monster that’s responsible for this and hold them accountable.”
“There’s someone out there that knows who did this and how this happened, and there’s people out there that have information that would be the nugget that we need to explode this investigation and culminate in an arrest,” he told reporters Saturday. “We need those people to have the courage to come forward and share that information anonymously, through a text message, however it is they wish to convey that.”