ROCKPORT — Members of Caleigh Ann Harrison's family told reporters Wednesday that they are clinging to their belief that the 2-year-old Gloucester toddler was abducted when she disappeared from Long Beach last Thursday, noting that a renewed Massachusetts State Police search in and near the water for the little girl has failed to turn up any clues.
But a State Police spokesman noted that, while a resumed search effort in the water and along the shore Wednesday turned up no new leads, let alone answers, in the now week-old disappearance, there is also no evidence of an abduction or foul play.
While State Police announced late Wednesday that dive teams had left the water for the day, but would return and resume their own search this morning , members of Caleigh's family — including her mother, Allison Hammond, and father, Anthony Harrison, hosted a press briefing on the steps of Anthony Harrison's Washington Street home.
"We think we would have found her by now (if she had been pulled into the ocean)," said David Harrison Jr., uncle of Caleigh and a brother of her father. "That gives us hope that she could be found."
"We think it's very possible that somebody took her," he added. "Not that we're not saying the efforts in the water are unappreciated, it's that if she is out there, we want to make sure people know she could be out there."
To that end, David Harrison said the family has been handing out flyers with pictures of Caleigh in the hopes that someone would see her. Harrison acknowledged that the chance that Caleigh may have been abducted is essentially the only hope the family has that the little girl could possibly return home.
State Police spokesman David Procopio said, however, that there is no evidence of abduction.
"That investigation has yielded no evidence of abduction or foul play," Procopio said, though State Police have not been able to rule out foul play, either.
State Police divers, meanwhile, resumed their search of the water off Long Beach, Cape Hedge Beach and around Milk Island Wednesday after a three-day shutdown due to weather problems, and authorities said they expect to re-enter the water today at 7 a.m.
State Police spokesman Todd Nolan said that the opinion of the family has nothing to do with the way the State Police are investigating the disappearance.
"We have no idea what the family is doing. We have no control over them; the family is the family," said Nolan.
According to Nolan, the State Police "will consider any and all possibilities until they're ruled out."
While the search continues to focus on the water and beaches, police are also still examining the possibility of an abduction, and have not ruled out foul play, Nolan said.
Nonetheless, reading a statement written by the parents, Harrison said, "We are not giving up hope of finding our little girl."
"Caleigh is our beautiful, wonderful little girl. Please help us bring her home," Harrison said.
At the press conference, members of the Harrison family wore pale pink ribbons with a magenta hand attached — ribbons that David Harrison said were made by a friend.
Harrison emphasized the uncertainty surrounding Caleigh's disappearance, noting that there was no way to know exactly what happened to the toddler.
"We don't have footprints, we don't have clothing, we don't have witnesses. We have a 4-year-old playing in the sand," said Harrison, referring to Caleigh's sister Elizabeth, the person closest to the girl when she went missing.
Caleigh disappeared last Thursday while playing on the beach with her mother, Allison Hammond, of Gloucester, her 4-year-old sister Elizabeth, and the family dog. According to reports, the girl's mother briefly turned away from Caleigh and Elizabeth and went to retrieve a ball that had gone over a nearby concrete wall; when she turned back, Caleigh was gone.
State Police divers were not able to search Sunday, Monday or Tuesday due to the bad weather and high seas, and were dealing with swells as high as 6 feet in some sections of the water on Wednesday.
State Police have also been using a side scan sonar device to search the ocean floor, while search dogs have also been deployed along the beach, on Milk Island and along any surface that could be reached by an inflatable boat, according to Procopio.
State Police have also consulted with the Rockport harbormaster and local fishermen to determine prevailing currents in an attempt to pinpoint where Caleigh may be.
The Coast Guard had also assisted in the search last Thursday, but pulled back on Friday, saying the operation was no longer a search and rescue mission, but instead a recovery mission, indicating that Coast Guard searchers did not expect to find Caleigh alive.
David Harrison Sr., Caleigh's grandfather, said the family is still holding out hope Caleigh will return, and recognizes that the prospect of an abduction at least holds that possibility.
"We have nothing to lose," he said.
Stephanie Bergman can contacted at 978-283-7000 x3451 or email@example.com