ROCKPORT (CBS) – The father of two-year-old Caleigh Harrison says he’ll never lose hope that she’s alive, but has now accepted the reality that the little girl was swept out to sea off a Rockport beach.
“Even if that is exactly what happened, I still don’t have anything. I don’t have her body, I can’t have a funeral for her,” Anthony Harrison told WBZ-TV in an exclusive interview.
The organization, Mission for the Missing, which has been helping the Harrison family, says it put together a team of experts to conduct additional investigative work, as well as to interview witnesses who were on Long Beach back on April 19.
Their conclusion brings a new round of pain for the family.
“It’s something that’s so hard everyday,” said Harrison.
Witnesses say they didn’t notice anyone unusual on the beach who could have abducted the two-year-old.
It was a theory the family had pursued when Caleigh’s four-year-old sister Lizzie said she saw a strange man on the beach at the time of her sister’s disappearance.
The two were playing near a fast-moving creek with a high outgoing tide.
“Quite a bit of sand was gouged out, so the possibility that she fell in there, it’s there,” he said.
It was Harrison’s estranged wife Allison Hammond who was at the beach with Caleigh. She told investigators she left the girl and her sister only briefly to retrieve a ball that went over a seawall.
Harrison says he still has questions about the timing, but “regardless of how it was, nobody was watching her.”
The incident led the state Department of Families and Children to open a potential neglect case against Hammond, concerned about the safety of Lizzie.
Harrison is now channeling his energy into child safety campaigns as a way to “pay it forward”.
The family fingerprinted more than 150 children at a recent Gloucester festival in conjunction with the Molly Bish Foundation, and will distribute safety tips to parents during a beach day in August.
Harrison says the bottom line for him is that children can disappear in a matter of seconds and need to be watched.
“The stuff we’re trying to do is to save other children and other families from going through this hell we’re going through,” he said.
You can follow Beth on Twitter @BethWBZ.