"Police said they couldn't issue an Amber Alert because there was no evidence of an abduction," says Catherine Curcuru, an aunt and godmother of missing Gloucester 21/2-year-old Caleigh Harrison.
"But when you think about it, there was no evidence — and there's still no evidence — that she was in the water, either," Curcuru says. "So why automatically rule out abduction? We're an island. Why not close the roads? What would it take? How much would it cost?"
Curcuru, the sister of Caleigh's father, Anthony Harrison, was speaking to the Times on Wednesday night in a lengthy phone interview, recalling how, on that first awful April afternoon exactly one month ago Saturday, she, like virtually everyone else, assumed the tiny toddler had been swept out to sea.
"When I got to the beach, my gut told me she was in the water," she recalls now. "But listen, I was in line when they handed out the common sense, and it just didn't make any sense to me to rule out abduction, either."
Although grateful for all the police had done by way of sea searches, Curcuru said that she and other family members have felt a sense of disconnect with the status of the on-going investigations. That observation gained sudden credibility when, in the midst of the interview, she received a phone call on her land line from Anthony Harrison that Massachusetts State Police divers had returned Wednesday to the Long Beach scene of Caleigh's disappearance to re-enact some earlier tests.
While Caleigh's family continues to raise the issue, state police reiterated after Wednesday's beach visit that there is no such evidence of an abduction.
In fact, police said that a float test showed that currents at Long Beach, such as those of the day Caleigh vanished, could have swept a 2-year-old swiftly out to sea.
"We put a float in the water and a diver underneath and they shot out into the ocean," State Police spokesman David Procopio said through media reports. "Within 15 minutes, the float and the diver underneath were swept out in the currents."
Procopio said State Police investigators believe there is no evidence of foul play in Caleigh Harrison's disappearance, when she was playing at Long Beach with her mother, Allison Hammond, and her 4-year-old sister Elizabeth.
Procopio said investigators have received and followed up on some 200 tips from people in and outside the area.
"We have no evidence of foul play. Nobody saw anyone in the area who could have committed an abduction. Nobody saw any cars or people," he said.
The family's clinging to an potential abduction, however, comes in part from 4-year-old Elizabeth, while after reportedly initially telling police she did not know happened, now consistently recalls "a man on the beach" who could have taken her sister.
Catherine Curcuru said the family knew nothing of state police's return to Long Beach on Wednesday until they saw coverage of it in the media.
Caleigh's mother, Allison Hammond, said Thursday that the latest state police visit to the area had come as a complete surprise to her, too.
Referring to a TV report that she had left her children by the footbridge at the edge of Saratoga Creek, Hammond said, in an emotional phone interview with the Times, "I would never have left my daughters by the footbridge."
Hammond, whose family owns a cottage on Long Beach, is very familiar with the notorious undertow of Saratoga Creek at high tide.
"The currents change by the hour there," she said, "and it was super moon, the tide was ripping."
Hammond says she left her "girls" where her sister-in-law Catherine says she did — nestled in a safe spot in the rocks some distance from the creek.
"I'm very grateful for all the police have done to find Caleigh," says Hammond, "but I wish they hadn't just focused so fast on the water, because there's no more evidence that she went into the water than there is that she was abducted."
Hammond, who, like other family members describe Caleigh as a child who did not particularly like the water, and who would never go into it on her own, says she and her girls were planning to build a sand castle there on the spot where she'd left them.
Instead, when she looked back at the spot where she'd left the two of them, only one of them, Lizzie, was there, her arms raised, saying, "Caleigh's gone."
"I'd feel better," said Hammond, "with State Police saying that the just don't know what happened to Caleigh. Because that's the truth.
"They don't," she said. "None of us do."
Joann Mackenzie can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3457, or firstname.lastname@example.org.