Kym L. Pasqualini is the founder and former CEO of Nation's Missing Children Organization and National Center for Missing Adults.
It was June 2009, in rural McCleary, Washington, on a warm summer night. Just a couple of weeks before Lindsey Baum's 11th birthday, the unimaginable happened. The beautiful brown-eyed girl with light brown hair vanished while walking home alone.
A Safe Place
McCleary, Washington, is a small town with a population of only 1,600 and located in Grays Harbor County. In 2009, Melissa Baum was newly divorced and looking for a fresh start in a beautiful new place. She found her vision in McCleary and moved from Tennessee to the town with her two children, Lindsey and Joshua.
It seemed like a wonderful, quiet place to raise two children.
Founded in 1898, McCleary was a logging town just 25 minutes from I-5 at Olympia. The city is governed by the Mayor and five Council members, and all utilities, including electricity, is provided by the city. It seemed like an ideal place for the Baum family to make a new start.
The small town of McCleary was a place where parents felt comfortable letting their children play outside, a place where children felt safe walking to their friend’s homes. Parents did not worry about “stranger danger” in this quiet community.
One Summer Evening
On a beautiful June evening, Joshua and Lindsey got permission to walk to their friend Micayla’s home just 10 minutes away. According to True Crime Files, along the way, Lindsey and her brother got into an argument over a bike, so he went back home. Lindsey then asked her friend if she could sleep over, but Micayla’s mother told her no.
Lindsey, who was afraid of the dark, began to quickly walk alone four blocks to her home. She hurried because the sun was beginning to go down and would set by 9:45 p.m.
Lindsey never arrived at her home. By 11:00 p.m., a panicked Melissa called 911 and the search for Lindsey began. Officers from the McCleary Police Department responded to the home, along with agents from the Seattle office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Law enforcement immediately began searching the town and surrounding forest. Soon after, thousands of flyers were distributed throughout the state of Washington. Water, ground, air, and cadaver dog searches went on for days but investigators found nothing.
“There’s no one piece of evidence that points to an investigative path or scenario that says, well, we know that she was a victim of an abduction by a family member or an acquaintance,” said Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott at a press conference. “We don’t have anything that has allowed us to be that focused, and without that focus, you can’t really clear anyone with 100-percent certainty.”
As days, weeks, months, and, eventually, years passed, Melissa’s dedication to finding her daughter never waned.
“I just need my daughter home," Melissa told the Daily World newspaper in 2009. “Lindsey, please come home, you’re not in trouble.”
The desperate mother focused on Lindsey being somewhere alive, as she never wanted to focus on other possibilities that were less hopeful. She was nevertheless left with intense ambiguity and loss.
Many families of missing persons believe it is better to know if your child has been murdered and be able to bury them, rather than living day to day trying to avert sleepless nights and regular nightmares. This is life for families of missing persons who don't know if their child is alive or dead.
For Melissa, the answer would finally come in September 2017. It was the answer every parent fears.
Remains were found in a remote area in eastern Washington, hundreds of miles away from McCleary, in Kittitas County, near Ellensburg. Once collected, the remains were taken for DNA analysis at the FBI lab, in Quantico, Virginia.
It wasn't until May 2018 that the DNA results were released. Sheriff Scott announced his team had finally brought Lindsey home and verified that the DNA results matched the little girl. It had taken months for a confirmation, but now Melissa and her family knew Lindsey was no longer alive.
“I’m here today to share with you that we’ve brought Lindsey home,” Scott said in a press conference. “Sadly, she was not recovered as we and her family had hoped and prayed these last nine years.”
Scott did not divulge the exact location where Lindsey’s remains were found, only saying that hunters are there seasonally.
The Kittitas County Sheriff told the Washington Post that investigators searched the area over the weekend looking for any evidence that may help clarify how Lyndsey was murdered, and also confirmed the remains had been found in a remote, heavily wooded area with large cliffs and deep ravines.
Many theories surfaced over the years, but none have led police any closer to the killer.
The first thing police investigated was if Lindsey could possibly be a runaway, but they dismissed the theory almost immediately.
“This young girl didn’t simply run off on her own,” the police said. “There was no evidence to support that.”
Lindsey was only 10-years-old and was afraid to stay out after dark. She left all her belongings at home along with her brand-new cell phone. Early on, the "runaway" theory did not hold any water.
Next, was the theory of a non-family, or stranger, abduction. Non-family abductions are rare, according to the FBI, and while there was no evidence of abduction, the possibility was real.
With nearly 50 people interviewed as persons of interest in Lindsey's case, an equal number polygraphed, and at least 20 search warrants issued, police were no closer to knowing who abducted and murdered Lindsey.
A Warrant Served
In October 2009, police served a search warrant on a man living outside of McCleary. The warrant outlined suspicious activity, inconsistent statements, and suspicious activity that led to the man, the Daily World reported. It was claimed, the man had strange and disturbing conversations about Lindsey and had been accused of sexual assault prior to Lindsey’s abduction and murder.
However hopeful a lead, no evidence was found at the man’s home and no arrests were made.
In 2017, three brothers were arrested for child pornography and sexual abuse charges. Charles Emery, 82, Thomas Emery, 80, and Edwin Emery, 78, lived about thirty minutes from the site Lindsey vanished. The three immediately became suspects upon the grotesque discovery.
True Crime Files reported that prosecutors said that the Emery brother’s home “was littered floor to ceiling” with child porn, toys, and children’s shoes. Investigators found writings about “ritualistic and Satanic sacrifices of minor children."
Disturbingly, Lindsey’s missing person flier was also found in the home.
Due to lack of evidence, however, the Emery brothers were never arrested for Lindsey’s murder.
The Jewelry Store Owner
In February 2012, investigators released a store surveillance video trying to identify a person of interest in the Lindsey Baum disappearance.
The man was identified as Tim Hartman, the owner of Hartman’s Jewelry and Repair in McCleary. When interview by investigators, Hartman denied having anything to do with Lindsey’s disappearance.
Later, he admitted he “unintentionally” gave inconsistent statements to authorities about his whereabouts on the night Lindsey vanished, Komo News reported. It was later found, Hartman had been in McCleary and even went out to help find Lindsey that June night.
The video shows Hartman purchasing an item in the store at approximately 9:15 p.m. on June 26, 2009, but Hartman had told investigators that he was not in McCleary during that time.
Hartman showed the FBI a certificate of training from a class he claimed he was at until 9:00 p.m. in Belfair, nearly an hour away. However, FBI agents determined the class had actually ended at 8:15 p.m., giving Hartman enough time to drive back to McCleary.
Hartman was also a volunteer firefighter and told Komo News he made an ambulance run later in the evening, then returning to McCleary where the search for Lindsey had already started.
Hartman joined the search for a while, then went home but claims he could not sleep so he went back out at approximately 1:00 a.m. He said he ran into Melissa and drove her to the creek where Lindsey played to search for her.
Hartman says the police are wasting their time and money investigating him and the investigation has damaged his reputation.
“Don’t accuse me of something I didn’t do,” he told Komo News. “All I can do is tell them what I know, which is nothing about the little girl.”
According to Melissa, Lindsey loved to talk and always told her family she was superstitious about being out at night calling 1:00 a.m. the “witching hour,” her family told Daily World. She loved Harry Potter and Twilight and especially loved writing stories. Her dream was to publish enough books to fill her family’s bookshelves, True Crime Files reported.
Little Lindsey once dreamed of leaving a legacy, but her dreams snuffed out by a sick and twisted individual. However, the legacy this little girl has unintentionally left the world is equally important. The search for Lindsey brought many together to search for an innocent little girl and to this day, they remain diligent in finding the killer and ensuring justice is served. Everyone involved remains committed to making sure Lindsey is never forgotten.
“There’s someone out there that knows who did this and how this happened, and there are people out there that have information that would be the nugget that we need to explode this investigation and culminate in an arrest,” Sheriff Scott said in a Washington Post article by Kristine Phillips. “We need those people to have the courage to come forward and share that information anonymously, through a text message, however it is they wish to convey it.”
If you have any information about the murder of Lindsey Baum, please call the McCleary Police Department at 360-495-3107.
In 2021, authorities in Grays Harbor County, Washington, arrested a man in connection with a cold case kidnapping and rape. Police stated this man may have also been involved in the disappearance and murder of 10-year-old Lindsey Baum.
© 2020 Kym L Pasqualini