I remember where I was five years ago on June 26, 2009. On this day, five years ago, Lindsey Baum vanished into thin air. She was walking home in the evening in the middle of McCleary wearing a light blue hooded pullover shirt and blue jeans. It was not yet dark. And someone took her.
I was hiking the Olympic Peninsula out by Hurricane Ridge with my girlfriend and a good friend I had met while taking a few classes at The Evergreen State College. We were in the backwoods when my editor called and wanted to know if I could get out to McCleary. I was obviously unavailable.
Fellow reporter Jacob Jones, who now works for a newspaper in Spokane, was able to make it out and cover the first day.
I was there the following day. We took turns back and forth in our coverage. Since we knew the community, and we knew the law enforcement covering the case, we had some of the national spotlight turn their glaring eyes on us. Somehow, we were talked into taking turns on the Nancy Grace Show on CNN. I still remember the accusatory questions she posed about the mother and trying to defend her as just being a typical mother allowing her kid to hang out with kids her own age.
Afterall, this was McCleary, not Detroit.
For a while there, we all, honestly, thought Lindsey had just wandered off. But the K-9 tracking dogs lost their scent of her.
And after days and days of searching turned into months and months of searching, there was just no sign of her even in the deepest swamps or in the furthest trees of the nearby Capitol Forest. Someone had obviously taken her.
Recently, a colleague and I walked the path that Lindsey would probably have taken from her best friend’s home to her old home. It was a 10-minute walk, if that. As we walked, we saw several neighbors, several cars and walked past at least three people. It continues to blow my mind that there was only one confirmed sighting of Baum between where she left the home to where she probably disappeared and it came from a driver who went past her.
Sheriff Rick Scott told me that on the 5th anniversary of Baum’s disappearance there really isn’t any plans for a media event. Previous years, there had been announcements of rewards for information. Her mother Melissa no longer lives in McCleary. The home is rented to someone else. The mother might work with a group in Thurston County to do some event there, Scott said.
Last year, detectives worked with Melissa Baum to release an updated photo of what Lindsey looked like. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released the photo of what Lindsey might look like. The non-profit organization serves as a clearinghouse on issues related to missing and exploited children. The photo looks true to life. You’d never know it was produced with computer software. The child-like grin was gone, replaced by a nuanced smile. But the same brown eyes are there. Inexplicably, it’s Lindsey Baum — missing since the age of 10, just one week shy of her 11th birthday. Now, she’s 15 years old, almost 16. Her birthday is July 7, 1998. A young woman, had she still lived in McCleary, she would have been enrolled at Elma High School. She might have played soccer.
Scott said just because a media event isn’t planned in McCleary, doesn’t mean his team has stopped working on the case. Since the start of the investigation, they have looked at more than 4,000 tips. Following up on tips, they’ve dispatched detectives to or contacted law enforcement officers in Nevada, Illinois, Tennessee, Massachusetts and elsewhere.
The county has invested tons of resources and money into finding Lindsey. The FBI has been involved since the beginning.
There are semi-truck trailers with her picture on it driving all over the country.
I was probably among those, who saw the juvenile skull found in a crab pot this past spring and thought there was a good chance it was Lindsey. Thank God I was wrong as the DNA analysis didn’t connect the skull to Baum.
But the crab pot theory was something I heard in the months after she went missing. I’ve heard other theories related to human traficking.
I pray that she’s alive. I saw the news of those who went missing for years and were recovered last year. Maybe that can be Lindsey. But, really, I pray that the family one day gets the closure it deserves.
I put the new poster up at the office at The Vidette. I hope others do the same. Download the poster here http://us.missingkids.com/poster/NCMC/1125977.
For anyone wanting to pay their own respects, there’s a tree with tiny ribons in front of Beerbower Park in McCleary near the VFW. It has Lindsey’s name on it. You can’t miss it.
How can a little girl just disappear for five years and no one know anything?
Steven Friederich is editor of The Vidette. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org