Pants that may have been worn by missing toddler Caleigh Harrison wash up on Good Harbor Beach
A pair of pants has been recovered on Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester that officials believe may have been worn by Caleigh Harrison, the 2-year-old girl who went missing from a Rockport beach in the spring, Rockport police and State Police announced today.
The pink capri pants were found among ocean debris on the northern end of the beach by a person walking along the shore on Friday, State Police said.
“The pants are consistent in size, color, and style with those that Caleigh Harrison was wearing when she disappeared while playing on Rockport’s Long Beach,” State Police spokesman David Procopio said in a statement. “The pants have been shown to members of the child’s family but we have not yet confirmed that they were those worn by Caleigh.”
The toddler was last seen April 19 about a mile south from where the pants were found. Her mother, Allison Hammond, told The Globe that she brought Caleigh, along with Caleigh’s 4-year-old sister, Elizabeth, to the beach and they were playing fetch with their family dog.
Hammond accidentally threw a ball too far over a seawall and left the girls alone on the beach for about two minutes to retrieve it. When Hammond returned moments later, she saw Caleigh had vanished.
No evidence of foul play connected to Caleigh’s disappearance was found during multiple searches made for her. State Police concluded that the little girl had been swept out to sea in a rushing current and drowned.
Earlier this year, investigators ruled out abduction even after Elizabeth told a friend that “a mean man took Caleigh.” Anthony Harrison, the girls’ father, believes Elizabeth told the story out of fear of getting in trouble for not protecting her sister.
Mission for the Missing, a non-profit volunteer group that helps search for missing children, also conducted its own investigation of the toddler’s disappearance, but ended up agreeing with State Police that she had been swept out to sea.
In July, Anthony Harrison told The Associated Press that he accepted the idea that Caleigh had been taken by the sea.
Maureen Flatley, a volunteer with Mission for the Missing, said she spent time today with family members, who “feel a pretty high degree of certainty” that the pants belonged to Caleigh.
“They feel a mix of almost relief, but also incredible sadness,” Flatley said.
She said her organization is planning to send a search team including dogs and possibly divers to the beach Wednesday, in the hopes of finding more evidence that may shed light on Caleigh’s disappearance.
Flatley also said the Harrisons have accepted that Caleigh was likely swept out to sea. “The Harrisons, I think, have really come to terms with the likelihood that [Caleigh] had come to the water,” she said. “There was complete unanimity among the experts.”
Rockport Selectmen Vice Chairman Paul F. Murphy said, “The story and the situation affected everyone. It was heart-wrenching from when moment she went missing to the present time. Our hearts are heavy here. I hope that if that the clothing is hers, that it will be able to provide some closure for the family and the investigators who have worked tirelessly to bring her home.”Sarah N. Mattero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.