By Marjorie Nesin Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — A pair of pink capri pants described as similar to those worn by 21/2-year-old Caleigh Harrison the day she disappeared from Rockport’s Long Beach last spring has been found on Good Harbor Beach, and both Rockport and Massachusetts State Police, with the help of Caleigh’s family and DNA experts, are trying to confirm whether the pants are, in fact, hers.
According to Rockport police reports, a 59-year-old man walking on the north end of Gloucester’s Good Harbor Beach notified officers when he found shreds of the pink Old Navy capri pants — seams, pockets and waistbands still intact — tangled in lobster gear and washed ashore Friday, just days after a nor’easter pounded Gloucester.
Rockport Police Chief John “Tom” McCarthy told the Times Monday that the pants are “very, very similar” to the pink pants that Caleigh was wearing on April 19, the day she disappeared while on an outing at the northern end of Long Beach with her mother, Allison Hammond of Gloucester, along with her then 4-year-old sister Elizabeth, and the family dog.
McCarthy added that Hammond has viewed the recovered pants, but that she has not be able to “confirm with certainty” that they are Caleigh’s.
Rockport Police Lieutenant Mark Schmink said police will send the pants for DNA testing once the family and investigators have had a chance to view the capris.
Schmink added that Caleigh’s father Anthony Harrison — who was estranged from Caleigh’s mother when the girl disappeared — would be unable to identify the pants because, as Harrison told police, he had never seen the clothing worn by Caleigh on the day of her disappearance.
“He had never seen the pants before and he wasn’t with her on this day, so he couldn’t have known them (the pants),” Schmink said.
Schmink said that, in the near seven months since Caleigh’s disappearance, police have received “all kinds of articles of clothing” found on nearby beaches and police have investigated each article and sent “a number of things” for DNA testing.
Still, state police spokesman David Procopio said Monday that the pants, found about a mile south of the point Caleigh was last seen, were “consistent in size, color, and style with those that Caleigh was wearing when she disappeared while playing on Rockport’s Long Beach.”
Hammond has told police that she was with the girls on the beach, but left for perhaps a minute or two to retrieve a ball that had gone over the beach wall while the family was playing with the family dog.
Massachusetts State Police, Rockport Police and the U.S. Coast Guard carried out intensive searches for days after Caleigh’s disappearance — and family members of Hammond and Harrison carried out intensive searches as well, looking into, at one point, a claim raised by Hammond and reportedly by 4-year-old Elizabeth, that Caleigh may have been abducted.
But while searching nearby Long Beach buildings early on for any trace of an abduction or abductor, police essentially focused their probe on the premise that, during Hammond’s brief absence, Caleigh had gotten into the water, and was carried away on a day when officials warned of severe riptides in the area.
Rockport Selectman Paul Murphy – who, like other officials, was briefed about the finding Monday by Town Administrator Linda Sanders with the case expected to draw renewed media scrutiny — said that, if the pants are in fact Caleigh’s, he hopes the finding will bring closure for the Hammond and Harrison families.
”It’s a very sad situation,” Murphy said, “but I hope it’ll bring some type of closure if in fact this is the clothing.
”It’s been an awful ordeal, not just for the family, but the Cape Ann community,” he added. “The most important part at this juncture is closure for the family.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.