Sheriff Personally Told Long-Missing Girl's Mom That Her Remains Had Been Found After 9 Years
"They had prayed that we would find her alive and bring her home," Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott said about the discovery of Lindsey's body
The family of 10-year-old Lindsey Baum, who had been missing since 2009 until Washington authorities announced this week that her remains were found last fall, is “devastated” by the confirmation of her death.
“They had prayed that we would find her alive and bring her home,” Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott said at a Thursday afternoon news conference about the discovery of Lindsey’s body. “That was not the outcome that the family wanted to hear.”
The family has asked for privacy as they grieve but gave their thanks for the public’s “continued support,” Scott said.
He tells PEOPLE he personally delivered news of Lindsey’s death to her mother, Melissa Baum, with whom authorities are still in “regular contact.” She still lives in the area, though she has moved several times.
“When I knocked on her door and she opened the door and saw I was standing there, and not the normal detectives who meet with her and talk to her, she knew,” Scott says. “She knew when I knocked on the door.”
“When I told her, I said, ‘I’m sorry, there’s just no easy way to tell you this,’ ” he recalls. “It was very, very sad.”
Authorities subsequently shared confirmation of Lindsey’s remains with her older brother, who lives in Washington, and her father, a National Guardsman who was training at the time.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Scott said Lindsey’s family was understandably rocked by the development and asked for “some time to themselves in order to get their heads wrapped around what’s happened.”
Nonetheless, the recovery of Lindsey’s remains now lets investigators narrow in on the suspect or suspects responsible for her abduction and slaying.
“The prayers and hopes of the family were that we would some day find her alive and bring her home. Now, the reality is we need to find a homicide suspect,” Scott said.
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“I was sad that it was ending like this,” he said of his learning that Lindsey’s body had been found, “but I was glad that we were able to bring some element of closure to what had happened to her.”
Lindsey was last seen alive on June 26, 2009. She and her mom and brother had moved to rural McCleary two years earlier.
The night she disappeared, Lindsey went to a friend’s house for a possible sleepover — then headed back home alone after the other girl’s mom said no. She wasn’t seen again.
In the nearly nine years since Lindsey went missing, more than two dozen possible people of interest have been investigated, according to the Seattle Times.
Sheriff Scott on Thursday said one imminent step would be a forensic examination of the area where Lindsey was found dead. He did not specifically discuss any suspects.
He said Lindsey’s remains were “unknowingly” found in September by hunters in Eastern Washington, after which they were sent to an FBI crime lab for DNA analysis, which confirmed Lindsey’s identity in recent weeks.
He declined to identify the exact area where Lindsey was found — beyond noting that it was largely used for hunting, with no one living there — or further describe the condition of her remains. He said that the “vast majority” of questions people were going to have about the case would be unanswerable at this time due to the ongoing investigation.
Scott did not discuss a possible cause of death or motive. He again urged anyone with information about what happened to Lindsey to come forward, even if anonymously.
Tips can be submitted to investigators by phone or online at 360-964-1799 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melissa Baum, Lindsey’s mother, did not stop believing her daughter had survived her disappearance.
“I know she’s alive,” Melissa told PEOPLE in a November 2009 cover story. “I feel it.”
Last year, she told NBC News: “I believe 1,000 percent that Lindsey is alive. There is no doubt in my mind she is out there somewhere waiting until we bring her home.”
“As a mother, I could, and would, never stop searching,” she said. “If I don’t, who will?”