Nearly nine years after she disappeared, authorities in McCleary say they have found the remains of Lindsey Baum.
At a crowded press conference Thursday afternoon in the McCleary Community Center, Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott, flanked by other law enforcement officials, said her remains were found in September by hunters in a remote area of Eastern Washington.
"I'm here today to share with you that we brought Lindsey home," Scott announced, which produced a gasp from the audience. "We recovered her. Sadly, she was not recovered as we and her family had hoped and prayed these last nine years."
The FBI earlier determined the remains were human, but they were only recently matched to Lindsey. Scott would say only that the remains were found in Eastern Washington in an area primarily visited by hunters. Otherwise, the area has no significant population, he said. Scott also declined to name the county and wouldn't discuss the nature of the remains found.
Although Baum's remains were found last fall, they only recently were analyzed by the FBI because the remains were submitted for DNA analysis, and were not attached to a specific criminal investigation, Scott said, so they were not a priority. The hunters turned over the remains to local authorities before they were sent to the FBI.
Scott said the case is now being treated as a kidnapping and homicide investigation.
“Our focus now is to solve a kidnapping and homicide. For the last nine years we’ve not been able to say definitively what this was. … Now the reality is we need to find a homicide suspect,” Scott said.
Scott was tight-lipped about the next steps in the investigation, but did say investigators have a location that can be searched forensically.
"We will remain involved," he said, "until we can bring in the monster responsible for this and hold them accountable."
He also spoke on behalf of the Baum family, saying the family was devastated by the news and had asked for privacy.
"It was a sad ending," said Scott about his own reaction to the Baum news, "but I'm glad we were able to bring some element of closure to this."
Former McCleary Police Chief George Crumb, who attended Thursday's press conference, called it a sad day.
"It's a sad day and an important day," he said. "Now we know."
Crumb has worn a wristband with Baum's name on it for nine years, he said. When one wore out, he replaced it with another. He plans to keep wearing it until "we get a suspect," Crumb said.
Lindsey was 10 years old when she disappeared on June 26, 2009 while walking the half-mile home from a friend's house in McCleary.
Authorities have identified people of interest over the years but there were no major leads or arrests.
The case gained national attention and was featured on the cover of People magazine and on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 2009.
Later a $35,000 reward was offered for any information that helped police find Lindsey.