The gavel has come down for the last of the relatives of missing little girl Haleigh Cummings to be charged with drug crimes. Eighteen year old Misty Croslin Cummings received word Friday that she would spend the next 25 years in prison. She was convicted on one charge of drug trafficking for selling oxycodone in St. Johns county, Fla. Seven additional drug trafficking charges are pending against Croslin Cummings in neighboring Putnam county, with sentencing set for Oct. 19.
Haleigh Cummings’ father Ronald, Ronald’s cousin Hope Sykes, Misty’s brother Tommy Croslin, as well as Misty’s friend Donna Brock were all previously sentenced to 15 years in connection with the same drug sting that ensnared Misty Croslin Cummings in January.First Coast News reported that the judge in Misty Croslin Cummings’ case, Hon. Wendy Berger, decided that Misty was too involved in the drug scene to qualify for sentencing as a youthful offender. Sentencing as a youthful offender would have resulted in a 6 year lockup.
Is the 25 year sentence just? I would argue no.
Misty Croslin Cummings A Minor When Arrested
Misty Croslin Cummings turned 18 years old during the drug sting that led to her arrest and 25 year prison term. She was eligible for youthful offender treatment and should have been treated as a youthful offender by the courts.
The juvenile justice system was established in recognition of the differences between adults and children. Recent research shows that the human brain is not fully mature even at age 18.
Role Models Lacking in Croslin Cummings’ Life
Not only was Misty Croslin Cummings’ behavior affected by her biological maturity level, she lacked role models to teach her responsible, law-abiding behavior. Both of Croslin-Cummings’ parents were- and still are- drug users and alcohol abusers. In the time since Haleigh Cummings disappeared, Misty’s mother Lisa Croslin has been in jail on both drug and forgery charges. Misty’s father was in jail on drug charges during Misty’s sentencing.
Lisa Croslin testified at Misty’s hearing that she left Misty and her brothers alone as young children and went drinking. The family moved from campground to campground during parts of Misty’s childhood. Misty was ridiculed by other children for not being able to read and write.
Raped at 12, Dropped Out
Beyond having negative and absent role models during her childhood, Misty Croslin Cummings suffered severe trauma including multiple rapes. She was raped during 7th grade, causing such intense fear of going out that she dropped out of school. Misty’s sister-in-law Chelsea Croslin said in a media interview that the adult rapist was sentenced to 8 years.
At age 14, Misty became pregnant and ran away.
The Haleigh Factor
Misty Croslin Cummings was the last person known to have seen Haleigh Cummings before she disappeared from her bed in Feb. 2009. Police have questioned her story about what happened that night and publicly stated that they don’t believe she has told all that she knows. Legally, this is irrelevant to her drug arrest and sentencing. But did it nevertheless influence her arrest and sentencing?
Comment sections of internet articles on the Haleigh Cummings case are replete with regrets that poor Haleigh didn’t stand a chance, being raised by drug-using family with glaring social deficiencies. Yet can’t the same be said for Misty? She too was a child. She too grew up amid drugs. And she suffered indignities that little Haleigh avoided- rape, illiteracy, and homelessness. If Haleigh deserves empathy for her experiences prior to her disappearance, surely Misty Croslin Cummings evokes some as well.
Child Had Hard Life, So What?
“Lots of people have hard lives and don’t end up committing crimes,” Judge Berger said after hearing evidence of childhood trauma and instability during Croslin Cummings’ sentencing hearing.
Minimizing Misty’s experience by comparing it to the “hard life” suffered by others who didn’t sell drugs denies the reality that Misty lived. Absent parents, multiple rapes, no teachers after age 12, no regular home- these factors describe much more than a “hard life.” They describe a desperation few can imagine, developmental trauma that impedes normal growing up. Being raped during childhood is a recognized trigger for widespread psychological and social dysfunction including drug use and and criminal behavior.
Without parents or other stable adults to guide her, desperately traumatized by multiple rapes, destabilized by homelessness and parental addiction, when, where, and how was Misty Croslin Cummings supposed to learn about “making the right choices?” To hold her accountable as if she were an adult for failing to do so, for her actions during a drug sting that bridged her 18th birthday, is unconscionable. Facing 6 years in prison at age 18- one-third of her lifetime to date- would have been a virtual eternity and plenty long for treatment and rehabilitation.
25 years for a nonviolent crime committed at age 17 is more than three times the sentence received by the adult who violently raped her when she was 12.
Does anyone seriously contend that this is justice?
News 4JAX- Misty Croslin Cummings Sentenced
First Coast News
Jacksonville.com- Tommy Croslin Sentenced
News 4JAX- Donna Brock Sentenced
Dartmouth news release on brain maturation research
Advocates for Youth information on childhood rape