Melissa Baum wears a silver necklace holding a small silver pendant with a ruby. Contained within the pendant are half the remains of her daughter, Lindsey.
It’s been 10 years since Lindsey disappeared during a 10-minute walk to her home in McCleary on a hot summer evening June 26, 2009. It’s been a little more than a year since Melissa Baum was told her daughter’s partial remains had been found hundreds of miles away in the middle of the state and she knew for sure her daughter had been murdered.
During the decade that followed her daughter’s disappearance, Melissa has seen her daughter’s friends grow up, graduate from high school, go to college, marry, have children of their own. Melissa has only the memories of the talkative, intelligent, strong-willed girl, frozen in time at the age of 10.
“I’m finally to a point where I’m able to reminisce about her,” said Baum. “I have lots of memories that I’m grateful for.” For example, “She had so much energy. She talked constantly, a mile a minute.”
Lindsey was friendly.
“She never met a stranger,” said Melissa. She paused, then added, “I guess that should have scared me more.”
Lindsey didn’t like to see another child sad or alone. She loved to talk and acted as though others shouldn’t be burdened with silence.
“If she saw a kid on the playground alone, she would befriend them,” said Melissa Baum. “She couldn’t stand to see them being alone.”
Lindsey could also be introspective and, while friendly, didn’t feel a need to be the center of attention most of the time. “She wouldn’t go out of her way for attention, except maybe if she was competing with her brother for my attention,” quipped Melissa.
Melissa got a call in early May 2018 from Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott. He needed to see her, and right away.
“It felt a little odd, he sounded urgent, I didn’t understand,” she said, saying it normally took months to set up a meeting with investigators, and it had been more than eight years without much news to be shared.
The next day Scott and an FBI victim’s advocate showed up at her door.
“I knew there was more to it,” said Melissa, when she saw the raw emotion on Scott’s face. DNA testing from the FBI confirmed a portion of Lindsey’s remains had been found more than six months earlier in Eastern Washington.
“Over the years, when I heard of children’s remains being recovered, I remember feeling twinges of jealousy,” said Melissa. “I felt knowing would bring some relief. It’s been the exact opposite.” Anger, rage and frustration were the result for her.
Days later, at a press conference in McCleary, she spoke to the press and the community about the discovery of her daughter’s remains. She admits it is still difficult for her to visit the town; she moved some time after Lindsey’s disappearance but returned, not to McCleary, but to the area. She continues to grant interviews like this one and make television appearances. As difficult as they are for her, she knows there’s always a chance the right person will see them.
“It’s not over because she’s been found, not even close,” said Baum.
June 26, 2009
Lindsey Baum was excited about her upcoming 11th birthday in the early summer of 2009.
“She was going on and on about it,” said her mother, Melissa.
That’s something Lindsey could always do — go on and on. She was a talker. She had her opinions and let you know it.
She was really into the Harry Potter series of books. Lindsey and Melissa were binging on the series as they prepared to see the sixth movie installment, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”
Lindsey’s birthday was July 7. The new Harry Potter movie was to hit the big screen a week later. Lindsey would see neither.
Friday, June 26, 2009, wasn’t all that different from most other days faced by single mother Melissa Baum. School had been out for a week, and Melissa had her hands full with a full-time job, a mature-for-her-age, energetic 10-year-old daughter and a son, Josh, who had a variety of special needs.
What was unusual that day was the heat. But that Friday, Lindsey and a group of eight or so friends were doing their best to stay cool at a friend’s pool party.
As the pool party wound down later in the day, Melissa said Lindsey, a friend and Josh came back to the Baum home in the 400 block of East Mommsen Street. The kids played for a bit in the yard, and Lindsey asked if her friend could spend the night, as she had the night before. An exhausted Melissa said no, but said Lindsey, the friend and Josh could head to the friend’s home to see about a sleepover there.
“I remember the time was 9:15 p.m. It was one of the longest days of the year and there was a lot of daylight left,” said Melissa.
East Mommsen Street breaks north and east off McCleary’s South 3rd Street, the main north-south roadway through the town of about 1,600 in east Grays Harbor County. The friend’s house was in the 600 block of West Maple Street, less than a mile west of the Baum house.
Before Lindsey left for the friend’s house, Melissa told her to make sure she was home before dark. Not that she really needed to — Lindsey was not a fan of the dark.
“She didn’t like to be out in the dark,” said Melissa. She recalled asking Lindsey to get something out of the car, parked in the driveway just outside the front door, one evening after night had fallen.
“I’m not going outside. It’s the witching hour,” said Lindsey, with her usual resolve.
Melissa’s not entirely sure where she got that reference. It could have been from her affinity for tales of wizards and the Twilight book series about teen werewolves and vampires. But it certainly summed up the girl’s feelings about the dark — she did not care to be out in it.
So as the light was fading shortly before 10 p.m. and Lindsey had not returned home, Melissa knew something was wrong. She began calling Lindsey’s cell phone.
“I had no idea she left her cell phone in her room,” said Melissa. She said the first dozen calls that went to voice mail had her frustrated, if not irritated. She wondered if her strong-willed girl was upset about something and was just ignoring her mother’s calls. “Come on Lindsey, this is why I pay for your cell phone.”
Concern grew to fear as darkness fell. Melissa and others searched the neighborhood, checking out Lindsey’s usual routes to her friend’s home. Nothing. It was time to call the McCleary Police Department. Their response was swift.
“By the time I called them I had called everyone on her friends’ phone list,” said Melissa.
Night turned to day, still no Lindsey. The Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office was called in, and within a short time, the FBI was involved. Everyone agreed, there is no way this little girl is hiding. Something terrible has happened. But nobody knew, or dared to guess, what.
“It didn’t seem real, like it was a bad dream,” said Melissa 10 years later.
The McCleary community was out in force during the early search. Helicopters buzzed the town, media from all over descended on the town, search and rescue volunteers, search dogs, hundreds of law enforcement personnel, everyone was looking for Lindsey.
Then, as happens in small towns in particular, the rumors started. Josh and his sister had a little dust-up about a bicycle somewhere along the route to the friend’s house. Could the mother be covering for the son? Spats between brother and sister aren’t uncommon, the minor one that happened to occur that day was nothing more and was quickly dismissed by investigators.
“There was one rumor for some reason that I had a garage sale and sold all her stuff,” said Melissa Baum. “No, I kept it all.” She had it all in boxes in storage up until about a year ago, when she could no longer afford the storage rental.
Private investigator Rose Winquist, who officially took a role in the investigation about a year ago, said Melissa had to face a lot of scrutiny during the months after Lindsey’s disappearance. Winquist said there was talk around town of the “feral kids” in the Baum household, allowed to come and go as they pleased.
As the days turned to months, then years, Melissa coped as best she could. She and the kids had moved from Tennessee less than two years before Lindsey disappeared. They landed in Olympia, where Melissa worked. Money was tight and Melissa found a house in McCleary, where the kids could go to school.
“It felt safer than Olympia,” said Melissa.
Between the kids, the job and the commute, Melissa didn’t have a lot of time to socialize and never really was able to make many connections in her new town.
After the disappearance, Melissa felt a bit trapped.
“I was afraid to leave but I couldn’t stay,” said Melissa Baum. “What if she came back home and I wasn’t there? I was afraid to leave town.”
She said she was unable to return to work. She left the area. Josh went to live with his dad in Tennessee. She has since returned to the area, is working again, but still finds it difficult to go back to McCleary.
She is frustrated that the person who killed her daughter has not been arrested. She is concerned to know that person is still out there, and other children could be in danger of a similar fate.
Melissa believes the monster who stole her child’s young life deprived the world of a bright star full of potential.
“The world lost. It wasn’t just me that lost,” said Melissa. “I think she could have made a big impact. She had big plans.”
There’s a $45,000 reward for the tip that leads to the arrest and conviction of Lindsey Baum’s killer. Call the confidential tip line at 360-964-1799 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.