10 years later, still no arrests in disappearance of Lindsay Baum
It was a beautiful summer day for the small town of McCleary on June 26, 2009, with temperatures in the 90s.
Lindsay was among the 1,400 residents of the town. She was just a few weeks away from her 11th birthday when she was walking with a friend and her brother. They were headed to a friend’s house just a few blocks away, aiming to organize a sleepover. Along the way, Lindsay’s brother decided to head back home. Lindsay and the friend made it to the house, but the sleepover was a no-go, so Lindsay headed back home just after 9 p.m.
She was never seen again.
“That was the night my world shattered,” said Melissa Baum, Lindsay’s mom.
It didn’t take long that night for Melissa to realize something was wrong.
“By the time it really started getting dark, I was already calling her friends,” she said. “By that time, I’d found her cell phone so I had called everyone in her phone, I had called everyone I could possibly think of. The parents of her friend had been out driving around looking for her, so by the time I called police I knew something was wrong. I told them right away she’d be home. Something is going on, she’s hurt, something, but the reality of what actually happened didn’t set in for a while.”
Almost immediately, investigators and volunteers launched a massive search effort, choppers were in the air, media from all over the nation converged on the small town. It was chaos.
It’s a feeling you can’t imagine unless you’ve been through it, and one Melissa hopes no parent ever has to experience.
“I was numb for about four years,” Melissa said. “It was like being in a conscious coma I guess, or an out-of body-experience. I mean, I was just numb. It was like I was on auto-pilot every day, like just kind of went through the paces of life. It took three or four years for it to really sink in what had happened.”
Searching for Lindsay Baum
Search efforts continued for months, and, over the years, smaller more infrequent searches. Then, in 2017, hunters in a rugged, remote area in Kittitas County, about 20 miles west of Ellensburg, more than 150 miles from McCleary, found a partial skull. It was obviously a child, but there was a boy missing from the area and that’s who investigators focused on when the remains were first found.
In May of last year, Grays Harbor Sheriff Rick Scott made an official announcement. Those partial remains were from Lindsay. She was dead.
“We’ve brought Lindsay home. We’ve recovered her. Sadly, she was not recovered as we and her family had hoped and prayed these last nine years,” Scott said at a press conference last year.
Investigators set up a meeting with Melissa a day before the press conference to inform her. She figured it was some kind of update on the case, but had no idea what was coming.
“Opened my door expecting it to be the lead detective and I saw the sheriff and two FBI agents instead, and I could tell by looking at Rick Scott that, oh, this isn’t what I thought it was going to be,” Baum said. “It was obvious that he’d been crying, his eyes were all puffy, and the original FBI person had flown in from Quantico to be there to deliver the news. So, I knew that as soon as I opened the door and saw them, I knew at that moment.”
Until that moment, Baum still strongly believed Lindsay could be found alive. After all, it had happened in other cases like Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard, so why not Lindsay?
“I can’t say I was shocked, but when he said, you know, we’ve identified Lindsay through DNA, 100 percent, it’s Lindsay, I don’t know, like I was stunned maybe?” Melissa said. “I felt hope leave my body. I really felt it exit my being.”
“The not knowing, there’s nothing worse,” she said. “Every nightmarish, horrific, horrendous nightmare of the worst monster you could ever imagine, that’s what goes through your mind every minute you don’t know,” Baum said. “But I still worry about that … I don’t know what her final hours or days were like. I don’t know, and how do you go through life knowing that one day you had a beautiful 10-year-old child with an incredibly bright future and she was just gone?”
An open investigation
There’s not much that Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Darrin Wallace can say about the Lindsay Baum case — it remains open. He says they are still getting a steady stream of tips, daily, and stresses this is a very active investigation.
“We call them basically persons of interest,” Wallace said. “You know we’re looking at a lot of different people and that’s about as far as I can go there. We have people we’re looking at and people we’re really interested in and we’re just kind of following through trying to tie it together.”
Baum has a private investigator working the case now, Rose Winquist, and they both strongly believe whoever killed Lindsay is from McCleary. However, they’re also looking for connections to the area near Ellensburg where the remains were found.
“I would like to do another search because I think what potentially could have happened is that Lindsay’s remains may have been carried by water, there was flooding [in that area where the remains were found],” Winquist said.
“Remember, it’s been 10 years, so there’s a number of things that could have contributed to why Lindsay was found where she was found, and why the rest of her wasn’t with her.”
“That being said, I think another search would be great to do but to include more into a larger circumference, maybe a four-mile radius instead of a two-mile radius,” Winquist added.
That area is popular among hikers, hunters, and for other outdoor activities, and there is a summer camp not too far away. Baum and Winquist say many people are around that area this time of year and they’re asking everyone to keep their eyes peeled for any shred of potential evidence.
“There’s going to be certainly not much other than skeletal remains, but if the killer, for example, wrapped her in something or left maybe some possession of theirs at the scene, that could provide potential DNA,” Winquist said.
If there is DNA found, that could lead to a match in criminal databases. Now there is new hope that even without a match in criminal systems, the new forensic tool known as genetic genealogy used to solve dozens of cases over the past year could also bring answers.
A special garden was dedicated in Lindsay’s honor Wednesday night at the park in McCleary. Melissa Baum was there to speak to the crowd. It’s one of the rare times she has returned to the small town her daughter was taken from.
Baum doesn’t even want to be in Washington state anymore, but says she won’t leave until her daughter’s killer is caught. She believes someone out there besides the killer knows what happened and has a message for anyone with information.
“Come forward. It’s been 10 years and my child deserves justice,” she pleaded. “I want to know who murdered my child. That’s all I want, and I know people out there know who it is. They need to come forward. I beg them to come forward. There’s a reward. They can claim the reward. Just who’s my child’s murderer?”
Melissa also has a message for whoever killed Lindsay.
“I’m coming for you,” she said. “They may think they’ve gotten away with it, but obviously if they ever turn on the news, they know every day they’re solving 50-year-old murders long before DNA. It’s gonna happen. It would be nice if they would just man up and turn themselves in and make it easy on everybody, or [they can] continue to spend whatever little bit of time and freedom you have left looking over your shoulder because it’s coming.”
Baum and investigators are asking anyone with information to come forward, no matter how insignificant they might believe the information might be.
There is a $35,000 reward for information that leads to Lindsay’s killer and you can make tips anonymously by emailing [email protected] Or you can call the Grays Harbor Sheriff tip line at 360-964-1799.