The search for Lindsey Baum, a 10-year-old girl who vanished from a small town in Washington nine years ago, ended this week when officials announced that her remains had been identified.
They are now tasked with finding her killer.
Lindsey’s mysterious disappearance, a missing persons case that made national headlines, has become a kidnapping and homicide investigation, Sheriff Rick Scott of Grays Harbor County said at a news conference on Thursday, adding that he would remain involved until the “monster” who killed the girl was held accountable.
“We’ve brought Lindsey home. We’ve recovered her,” Mr. Scott said. “Sadly, she was not recovered as we and her family had hoped and prayed these last nine years.”
The F.B.I.’s Seattle field office and the sheriff’s office are asking for the public’s help as they try to track down the person or people responsible for her death. The F.B.I. referred all questions about the case to the sheriff’s office, which is not staffed on the weekend and did not immediately respond to a request for additional information.
In September, a group of hunters in a remote area of Eastern Washington discovered the remains, which were sent to the F.B.I. for analysis, Mr. Scott said. This week the F.B.I. notified the authorities in Washington that the DNA of the remains matched that of Lindsey.
Lindsey was last seen leaving a friend’s house a few blocks from where she and her family lived in McCleary, a town of about 2,000 people in Western Washington, about 80 miles from Seattle. It was around 9:15 p.m. on June 26, 2009, less than two weeks before her 11th birthday. She never made it home. A $35,000 reward was offered for any information leading to an arrest, but as the years passed, the case remained cold and no suspects were identified.
The announcement about Lindsey’s remains provided a devastating resolution to residents of McCleary, where posters of Lindsey’s face are still hanging.
“It’s closure finally. Ten years of wondering in a small town like this,” Jerry Elofson, a former fire chief, told KOMO, a local news station.
Kaytlyn Reed, a childhood friend of Lindsey’s who was also interviewed by KOMO, described the news as “soul-crushing.”
“It’s really hard to think about it,” she said.
On Thursday, a Facebook page dedicated to finding Lindsey posted a message on behalf of her mother, relatives and close friends, thanking everyone for their support.
“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,” the message said. “Silent prayers of support are always welcome.”
In an interview on “Dateline” that aired last year, Lindsey’s mother, Melissa Baum, said she “died inside” after Lindsey went missing. “It was as if I was in a coma, just numb,” she said.
She added: “It destroyed us,” especially Lindsey’s older brother, Joshua. “He didn’t just lose his sister; he lost the mom he knew.”