'We've brought Lindsey home:' Remains of Lindsey Baum found in E. Wash.
MCCLEARY, Wash. - The remains of missing girl Lindsey Baum have been found hundreds of miles from where she vanished nine years ago, Grays Harbor Sheriff Rick Scott said Thursday.
"We've brought Lindsey home," Scott said at a news conference in the girl's hometown of McCleary. "We've recovered her."
The case of a 10-year-old who went missing in 2009 has now become a kidnapping and murder case, said the sheriff, who pledged to find and bring to justice the "monster" who killed her.
"Now the reality is we need to find a homicide suspect," Scott said.
Hunters found what would turn out to be her remains in September 2017 in what Scott would describe only as a remote location in Eastern Washington.
Those remains ultimately went to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia. But a DNA match was not performed immediately because the remains were not associated with a specific crime.
Authorities learned last week about the match. Baum's family, Scott said, is devastated by the news.
"They had prayed we would find her alive and bring her home," Scott said.
He urged anyone who knows what happened to her to have the courage to come forward.
"There is someone out there who knows who did this, and how this happened," he said.
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Scott released few details on the case and declined to answer several specific questions about the remains and whether there is a suspect.
But he did say that the location where the remains were found could provide evidence in the case.
Thursday afternoon, the community of McCleary learned about the developments and some neighbors say they were shocked by the news.
Michelle Ames struggled to hold back the tears following the major announcement. Ames helped set up the command center and helped with the search nearly 10 years ago when Lindsey Baum disappeared.
“It's sad and devastating we didn't bring her home the way we all hoped,” said Ames.
“It’s closure finally. 10 years of wondering in a small town like this,” said former Fire Chief Jerry Elofson.
McCleary Mayor Brent Schiller said the community is heartbroken by the news, but now there's renewed hope.
“We got the news we didn't' want to get today, but now there's hope we go on and find the people who are responsible for this,” said Schiller.
It’s not the way this close-knit community imagined Lindsey would be coming home: with flowers left in her memory, rather than in celebration, from her school friends.
“It was definitely soul crushing like you just pray that she was out there and she was ok and hope for the best, but then this happens and brings everything down,” said Kaytln Reed who went to school with Lindsey. “We still don't know what she went through so it's really hard to think about it."
Neighbor Kenneth Strozky remembers seeing Lindsey the day she disappeared from their street coming from her friend’s house in 2009. She never made it home.
He described Lindsey as a nice girl who would walk by his house all the time and wave.
“Just a sad, sad story, a lot of tears,” said neighbor Kenneth Strozky. “And God, I hope they find them, I hope they find them, whoever it was.”
“Nobody thought it would happen in our town,” said Reed.
Thursday night, her family released a statement saying: “Lindsey's Mother, Melissa Baum, as well as the relatives and close friends of Lindsey wish to thank everyone for their outpouring of love and support since the onset of Lindsey's disappearance on June 26, 2009. While we are experiencing profound grief and mourning the loss of "OUR ANGEL" Lindsey at this time, we respectfully ask for your understanding of our need for privacy. Silent prayers of support are always welcome. GOD BLESS YOU ONE AND ALL.”
No suspect has ever been arrested in the case, and Lindsey Baum's fate has remained unknown in all the years since she disappeared until now.
Lindsey was last seen at 9:15 p.m. on June 26, 2009, when she left a friend's home on Maple Street in McClearly, an little logging town between Olympia and the Pacific coast.
Lindsey was going to walk the four blocks to her home on Mommsen Road - roughly a 10-minute walk. But something happened in that short distance - Lindsey never arrived home.
Numerous searches took place in the hours and days after she vanished, and bloodhounds were brought in - but no sign of the missing girl was ever found.
Her case attracted national attention in the aftermath of her disappearance. She was featured on the cover of People magazine, and a large reward was offered for information.
There have been a few leads over the years, but none have ever led to an arrest or any information on Lindsey's fate.
Previous coverage on the case:
More background on the Lindsey Baum case can be found here.
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This is a developing news story. More information will be posted as it becomes available.