Art Harris On Nancy Grace Thurs., Oct. 15 on Misty’s Mom, Lisa Croslin
By Art Harris, The Bald Truth, (c) www.artharris.com, all rights reserved
As unlikely as it seems, fellow missing child advocate Mark Klaas has blasted Texas Equusearch founder Tim Miller for an amateur undercover operation that used a TES volunteer to befriend Misty Cummings, playing her “undercover mama” in an attempt to ferret out new information that might be helpful to police, who believe the 17 year old babysitter turned stepmom may be hiding more than she’s revealed about the missing child.
Tim Miller “should be in jail” for what he did, declared Klaas on CNN HLN’s The Nancy Grace Show Wednesday night. Klaas said such a sting operation could threaten any case police might build against Misty should she ever be charged.
But an outraged Miller fired back Thursday. “Fâ€”Mark Klaas!” said Miller, in an exclusive interview with The Bald Truth. “Yesterday Texas Equusearch found our 102nd victim. Unfortunately, he’d drowned, but we used our sonar and equipment and brought closure to another family. How many missing people has Mark Klaas found? All he’s done is live off his daughter’s name.”
Miller said he was shocked Klaas would question his status with police, and the high regard LE say they have for TES and its help in the Cummings case. It was Miller who put together an explosive battery of tests, including a polygraph he says Misty flunked, that many credit with jump-starting public interest in the case. Miller shared the results with investigators.
“I challenge Mark Klaas to walk into the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department with me and see if I get arrested,” he told me Thursday, offering to fly Klaas to Florida next week when he plans to return to Satsuma. “If I had enough time to read, let alone answer, all the criticism against me, nothing would get done in my office. So, for now, I’m loading up my boat and sonar equipment, to go search for another fisherman who drowned, and help another family. I invite Mark Klaas to join us.”
Both Klaas and Miller have lost daughters to kidnappers; the remains of Miller’s 16 year old daughter, Laura, were found in a field 17 months after he says he asked law enforcement to search the area and they ignored him. No killer was ever caught, but Miller has channeled his pain, grief and guilt into finding others’ lost loved ones.
“At least I got to bury my daughter,” he says, “and that’s something so many victims’ families don’t get to do. If I can help one family avoid what I went through, Laura will not have died in vain.”
Both men have received the Improvement for Justice award, accompanied by a $10,000 check for their non profit organizations, with Klaas winning it last year. “I’d won it the year before,” says Miller, “and they asked me to nominate someone for the award the next year, so I asked them to give it to Mark Klaas.”
In a statement issued by Texas Equusearch, Miller hailed volunteer Donna Brock as a hero of sorts, even though her role as a Satsuma double agent backfired on Florida’s Interstate 4 after she and Misty were pulled over by police, briefly handcuffed and released following an alleged road rage fiasco.
“Donna Brock did a tremendous job with Misty,” said Miller in a statement issued Wednesday by Texas Equusearch, “and has the support of Tim Miller and the Board of Directors of TES.”
While a driver claimed Brock and Misty had flipped her off and had brandished a gun, no weapon was found; no charges were filed and they were released.
The controversy sparked furious debate over the role of amateur sleuths like Brock and raised questions whether such agent provacteurs might damage any case police might build against Misty, who law enforcement says holds the key to finding out what happened to Haleigh.
Miller tells me that Brock met several times with Putnam County detectives to debrief them on what she heard or learned during her weeks playing a role as Misty’s gal pal. She’s been with Misty, on and off, since meeting her in Orlando during Cummings visit to take the TES polygraph and other tests.
“It was Misty who warmed up to Donna and started calling her to ask her to take Misty to the mall and do other girl things,” Miller told me. “Donna called me and said, ‘What do I do,’ so I said, ‘Play along and see what you can find out.’
“Haleigh remains our number one consideration, and we have to do whatever we can to find out what happened to her,” said Miller. “This was more important than searching the woods or water. We believed this just might get us a clue as to where we needed to search.”
To make sure his spy wasn’t later viewed as in any way tied to law enforcement, and anything she might learn dismissed should a criminal case ever be made against Misty, Miller tells me he didn’t relay to law enforcement where the pair were “every moment,” but investigators knew “we could locate Misty if they needed her.”
He said Brock met regularly with law enforcement as a citizen-volunteer, and briefed them on what she learned talking to Ronald Cummings’ wife, witnessing their fights on the phone, learning details about Misty’s heart-breaking childhood–and a dark side that has yet to emerge in public and could add to law enforcement’s behavioural profile of the stepmom.
“Misty has a furious temper,” says Miller, and “at times it scared Donna.”
According to Miller, when provoked, Misty would explode in a rage he said Brock feared could turn violent fast. After Ronald texted her while Misty was on a trip to New York to appear on the CBS Early Show, that Brock was spying on her, not acting as just a friend, he says Misty pounded on Brock’s hotel door in New York, cursed her and called her a “bitch.”
Miller says he was told that Brock had provided “useful” information to law enforcement. “I told her, ‘Don’t tell me details so I don’t let anything out that might hurt the case.'”
Sources close to the case confirm Brock briefed investigators several times and once accompanied Misty when she was questioned by detectives.
I’m told LE has 30 hours of Misty on tape, and has taken her on quite an emotional roller coaster ride in the interrogation room, recently laying out consequences of withholding what she may know–possible life behind bars if they ever make a criminal case against her in connection with Haleigh’s disappearance.
Misty maintains her innocence, saying she was sleeping and woke up to find Haleigh gone. Her frustrated lawyer, Robert Fields, sent me a text message Friday saying he was resigning as her attorney, after she repeatedly ignored his advice, including not to go on the CBS talk show.
While some believe her pending divorce from Ronald Cummings means she might be more vulnerable, less controlled and open to cooperating further, skeptics close to the case believe the split may be a calculated move to hide the couple’s true motives and exploit media opportunities for profit.
Recently, Cummings attorney announced he was setting up a non-profit outfit to raise money for his own private investigator to bring a “fresh set of eyes to the case,” and Ronald has held out the possibility he and his child bride could reunite sometime in the future, despite divorce papers filed yesterday in Putnam County.
Both cite the glare of media attention as driving a wedge between them; Ronald has publically said he believes Misty. But privately, he rants, and has now come under a new investigation by child welfare officials after Miller’s statements published exclusively on The Bald Truth that he saw Ronald brandish a weapon in front of his son and threaten to kill Misty and himself if he learns she had anything to do with his missing daughter.
Meanwhile, Miller says he’s met with the Texas EquuSearch (“TES”) board of directors to discuss “the recent events concerning Donna Brock and Misty Cummings,” and that the board “determined that the (victim’s) claim (behind) the so-called road rage’ incident was frivolous” â€“ there was no weapon — and that “Donna Brock did not violate any TES member rules. So, after careful consideration, the Board has determined that Donna Brock’s membership with TES remains current.”
In an exclusive interview with The Bald Truth, Tim Miller tells me it was Misty who reached out to Brock after she took a liking to the Orlando volunteer in August when the 17 year old babysitter was taking a private polygraph test she requested –then flunked “miserably,” along with a Layered Voice Analysis.
Misty had asked Texas Equusearch to give her the tests in an attempt to remove a cloud of suspicion and help her remember what happened the night she reported Haleigh missing.
During that time, she and Brock “bonded,” said Miller. When his volunteer laid out their budding relationship, and fearing what might happen to Misty and the case if Ronald did carry out his threats, Miller says he decided to do his best to keep her away and wired money to Brock to fund their road trip to the beach, “buy her some cheap outfits” and pay for visits to a nail and hair salon to pamper the teenager.
He estimates the polygraph and other truth testing expenses totalled about $8,000 and the road trip about $2,000, funded out of TES donations as valid expenses in the search for a missing child. “The goal was to gain her trust, and the next thing you know, Misty was acting like Donna was her mother,” asking her opinion and advice, he said.
“I believed we needed to take advantage of this opportunity and if we learned anything, pass it on to investigators to help in the search for Haleigh,” he told me.
Miller said Brock assumed the role of a sort of “undercover Mama” after bonding with Misty in Orlando in August when the 17 year old babysitter balked, then agreed to take a polygraph test that the private examiner (hired by TE) said she flunked “miserably,” along with a Layered Voice Analysis, and also underwent hypnosis in an attempt to remember that night and clear her name.
Police still call Misty the key figure they believe knows more than she’s revealing about the missing child mystery, and sources tell me detectives plan to interview her mother, Lisa Croslin, in the Putnam County Jail today, where she’s being held on a $10,000 bond for allegedly stealing $400 from a neighbor. Her family tells me there’s much more to the story, and insist it’s not so cut and dried.
Meanwhile, sources tell me investigators aim to compare what Misty told her with other stories her daughter has told, including comparing her account with the exclusive Misty interview on this website, according to sources close to the case. We a;so published an exclusive March 26 sitdown with Lisa Croslin that can be viewed here or on our You Tube page.
LE insists they are using every resource possible to solve the Haleigh Cummings mystery, running down more than 4,000 fruitless leads, as the case sinks deeper into the Satsuma, Florida muck of frustration and confusion.
SEE TIM MILLER’S OCT 15, 2009 STATEMENT REGARDING MARK KLAAS AND CONTROVERSY: (Oct. 1 is typo)