By Marjorie Nesin
---- — A day after search dogs and teams of trained volunteers combed the beach to no avail, looking for evidence in the case of missing Gloucester toddler Caleigh Harrison, organizers of the effort paused Thursday “mulling and trying to make out what makes sense” as a next step.
The search was rooted in the shreds of a pair pink capri pants found on Good Harbor Beach Friday and thought by Caleigh’s parents and law enforcement officials to be very similar to those she was wearing on the day she vanished from Rockport’s Long Beach while on an outing there with her then 4-year-old sister Elizabeth, mother Allison Hammond and the family dog.
Police plan to soon send the pink pants for DNA testing, as is standard practice. And, Caleigh’s father Anthony Harrison, estranged from her mother, told reporters Wednesday that he thought scientific evidence of the pants having been Caleigh’s would be enough for him to begin finding closure.
“I’d have to think about that — I think so,” Harrison said, when asked if the pants would be sufficient for him.
Hammond said while she was unable to identify the found pants as Caleigh’s with “absolute certainty” for police, but said she has been “accepting” that the pants are Caleigh’s.
“I don’t want to hope to find anything because I want to find my daughter,” Hammond said, “but at the same time, I want closure.”
The search Wednesday, pulling in both of Caleigh’s parents, their family members, an estimated 30 volunteers and five search dogs, including Gloucester’s Trident, yielded no results, with findings of only animal bones. Boston-based nonprofit, Mission for the Missing brought the volunteers together for the search.
”We are still sort of processing (Wednesday’s activities),” said Maureen Flatley of Mission for the Missing, and of Essex. “I’m not sure we’ll have really hard and fast plans for the next couple of days.”
Flatley and other Mission for the Missing volunteers had hoped the land search might lead to clues of where to begin mapping out a water-based search for remains. Thursday, however, Flatley also said the lack of results in no way signifies a wasted efforts, emphasizing that searchers can rule out the scoured beaches.
Still, Flatley said, the group plans to continue working on the case, but the search hinges on part on new findings.
”When the incident happens, it makes sense to just jump in there,” Flatley said. “But when a lot of time has passed and especially when you’re dealing with a really dynamic environment, you really want to be thoughtful.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.