The remains of Lindsey Baum, the McCleary school girl missing since the summer of 2009, have been found and positively identified, Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott said at a news conference Thursday.
“I am here today to share with you that we brought Lindsey home,” said Scott.
“Sadly, she was not recovered as we and her family had hoped and prayed these past nine years,” he reported as gasps could be heard from community members wedged between television cameras and reporters.
Hunters found the remains in a remote area of Eastern Washington in the fall of 2017, said Scott, but because the investigation is now a kidnapping/homicide, he would not be more specific about the location, not even narrowing it to a county. For the same reasons, he declined to discuss the condition of the remains or any suspected cause of death.
The hunters reported their discovery of the remains to local authorities immediately, and they were sent to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, for DNA analysis. Scott received word just recently that the remains were identified as Baum’s. When asked why the delay, Scott and, later, Chief Criminal Deputy Steve Shumate explained that the remains weren’t initially tied to a specific crime, so other cases had priority in testing from the FBI.
When asked why there was a two-week delay between getting the positive identification and Thursday’s news conference, Scott said that was something he couldn’t get into because of the investigation.
He deflected most questions from reporters, but said he hopes the find will lead to a suspect.
“I’m sad that it’s ending like this,” Scott said, “but glad to bring some element of closure. … But there’s somebody out there who has information that will bring this case to a complete closure.”
Kurt Ronnow, Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI in Seattle, said while the kidnapping and homicide investigation will be led by the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office, “We will assist them with all the resources we have available.”
A post Thursday afternoon on a Facebook page called Find Lindsey Baum read as follows:
“Lindsey’s Mother, Melissa Baum, as well as the relatives and close friends of Lindsey wish to thank everyone for their outpouring of love and support since the onset of Lindsey’s disappearance on June 26, 2009. While we are experiencing profound grief and mourning the loss of “OUR ANGEL” Lindsey at this time, we respectfully ask for your understanding of our need for privacy. Silent prayers of support are always welcome. GOD BLESS YOU ONE AND ALL.”
Also present at the press conference were representatives from the Pacific, Mason and Lewis County Sheriff’s Offices; McCleary Chief of Police Steve Blumer; McCleary mayor Brent Schiller and Grays Harbor County prosecutor Katie Svoboda. Scott said all of these agencies worked together during the lengthy investigation.
Just 10 years old at the time of her disappearance June 26, 2009, Baum was walking from her friend’s house on Maple Street in McCleary to her own home on Mommsen Road, a four-block distance, and was last seen at about 9:15 p.m. When last seen she was wearing a hooded sweatshirt that was either gray or blue, jeans and black sneakers.
Baum’s mother called the McCleary Police Department at 10:50 p.m., having waited in case her daughter had run into friends or otherwise dawdled. McCleary Police set up the initial search, and called in the Sheriff’s Office at 4 a.m.
Within days, the search expanded to include FBI agents stopping every car coming into and out of town, National Guard helicopters searching from the air, along with McCleary Police and the Sheriff’s Office canvassing for any potential witness. By June 30, dozens of volunteers from across the county and neighboring counties were involved, and it seemed the entire community was tirelessly looking for Baum.
By the time Baum’s 11th birthday rolled around in early July, there were still active searchers, with investigators focusing not on a disappearance, but a criminal act. The Sheriff’s Office had 25 deputies searching for her on that day.
Years went by and Baum’s family and the Sheriff’s Office never gave up. There were always investigators actively working the case. They did everything they could to keep Baum’s face in the public eye.
Leads would come in occasionally. A video tape from a local convenience store showing two women inside just minutes after Baum’s disappearance led nowhere. A local man was investigated in connection to Baum’s disappearance. Again, no evidence was uncovered to show any of those individuals were involved in the disappearance. But the Sheriff’s Office never for a minute stopped looking.
In January 2010, Federal agents searched the Baum’s home for the last time, and authorities again did a thorough search, only to come up empty. In August and again in October of that year, inmate work crews were directed to clear brush in the McCleary area in hopes of finding something. The case was featured on the nationally televised Nightline program on ABC. In October 2012, Baum’s mother appeared on the Maury Povich Show to take her daughter’s story to a national audience.
Since Baum’s disappearance, trucks have borne her age-enhanced image to keep in her the public’s mind. In 2014, the Center for Missing and Exploited Children released an age progression photo, featuring what she looked like at the time of her disappearance to what she may have looked like at age 15. These trucks traveled the country with those images.
Anyone with information about the case should call 360-964-1799, or email email@example.com.