Ronald Cummings believes, even with his daughter missing, he's still a good parent.
Despite the fact that his daughter Haleigh has been missing for over a month, Ronald Cummings told reporters he believes he is a better parent than the missing 5-year-old's mother, Crystal Sheffield.
Sheffield, through her attorney Kim Picazio, has made allegations that Cummings has been physically abusive to her and her children. "When a parent beats a child until the child is bloodied ... that is a crime in this county and where I'm from," said Picazio. Cummings has denied the allegations and hired an attorney.
Defending her grandson, Haleigh Cummings' great-grandmother, Annette Sykes, says, "Ronald's a good daddy. I'm not saying he's perfect because he's not. He's a young father, but he loves his children. He provides for his children. He spends as much time as
he can with them."
Cummings, who just wed his 17-year-old child-bride, has custody of both Haleigh and the girl's younger brother, Ronald Jr. How is possible that Halieigh and Ron Jr.'s mom doesn't have custody? Sheffield maintains it's because she was never told when the custody hearings were to take place. Robin Sax, a former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney, says it's unlikely Sheffield's children would be taken away as punishment for missing a court date.
It could be possible, says Sax, that Sheffield never bothered making a court appearance at all. In that case, it's not about who is a better parent. "Unfortunately," explains Sax, "it comes down to who cared enough to show up to court."
The courts also look at what's called a "welfare checklist" to determine what is in the child's best interest. This includes:
1. Physical, emotional and/or educational needs, now and in the future
2. The likely effect on any change in the circumstances, now and in the future
3. Age, sex, background and any other characteristics the court considers relevant
4. Any harm suffered by the child (or the risk of potential future harm)
6. How capable each parent is to take care of the child (in comparison to the other parent or other potential caregiver)
7. The wishes and feelings of the child -- taking into account their age, developmental abilities to make decisions, etc.
Based on this list, some would debate Cummings has displayed negligence by leaving both of his children in the care of a minor (Misty, who's now his wife). But Cummings has a history of relationships with underage girls -- Haleigh's mother was also underage when they began dating, which is another concern. "How old will Haleigh be when her father thinks it's OK for her to have a physical relationship?" wonders Sax.
Whether Cummings is involved in his daughter's disappearance or not has yet to be seen, but Sax wouldn't be surprised if he's guilty of some kind of inappropriate behavior. "Parents who make poor judgment calls typically put their kids at a greater risk of sexual and physical abuse," she says.
Do you think Ronald Cummings should have custody?
Listen to Misty Cummings' 911 call:
If you have seen Haleigh, or know anything about her disappearance, call 911 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 277-TIPS (8477).
|Robin Sax is a former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney who specialized in prosecuting sex crimes against children. She is the author of six books, including "Predators and Child Molesters: What Every Parent Needs to Know To Keep Kids Safe". Robin lives with her husband and three children in Los Angeles, California.|