It's been five months since 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings disappeared from the bedroom of her family's trailer home in Satsuma, a rural community north of Ocala National Forest. Haleigh, with her blond hair and eager smile, captured the attention of the Nancy Grace media brigades just after the memorial service for the previous missing-Florida-child-of-the-moment, Caylee Anthony.
But since then, law enforcement officers have searched 4,000 leads and come up with no suspect in a case they are treating as an abduction. Most media outlets have stopped sending camera crews to Satsuma. Yet a Fort Lauderdale bounty hunter has made the search for Haleigh his mission, investing thousands of dollars and jeopardizing his day job as a bail bondsman in his quest.
"You got to be crazy to do this shit," admits William Staubs, who goes by the nickname "Cobra." "I just pray that she's still alive."
Built like a hillbilly hockey player, with cowboy boots, a ponytail, and gold chains around his neck, Staubs is no stranger to difficult cases. Two years ago, he chased a fugitive from East Naples, Christopher Riendeau, who'd skipped out on a bond for drug charges and begun hiding out near military bases. Staubs and his partner tracked Riendeau across several states, finally busting him in Tennessee and discovering his cache of pipe bombs and grenades. (Riendeau was later sentenced to five years in state prison for making the bombs.)
Staubs, who has five kids of his own, says he started worked on the Haleigh case as a favor to Richard Grund, whose son, Jessie, was once engaged to marry Caylee Anthony's mother, Casey. The bounty hunter drove up to Satsuma in March and stayed for nearly a month, spending 22 hours a day interviewing the locals and combing the swamps and woods around town. He'd come back to his hotel room by 1 a.m. to catch Nancy Grace's latest spin on the story, then leave again by 4 a.m.
Soon, Staubs became convinced that a member of Haleigh's family committed the crime. On the night she disappeared, Haleigh was at home with Misty Croslin, her dad's 17-year-old girlfriend, whom he later married. Haleigh's mom, Crystal Sheffield, had custody of her daughter every other weekend.
Staubs is still working on the case and claims he's racked up $50,000 in expenses and lost wages on the search. Even if he finds the missing girl alive, Staubs says he wouldn't want to return her to either of her parents. "It's a turmoil of shit up there," he says.