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Missing girl found living with mom in Inverness

The 4-year-old has been living with her mom in Florida since last spring. The mom says she didn't know the girl was classified as missing.

By CARRIE JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 31, 2002

INVERNESS -- For the past nine months, a picture of 4-year-old Summer Croy has been posted on a Web site for missing children.

Only 3 feet 2 inches tall, with blonde hair and hazel eyes, the little girl was last seen May 1 in her hometown of Dundalk, Md., according to information kept by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

On Wednesday, Summer's picture was removed from the registry. She was found unhurt in Citrus County, living with her mother, Julie Croy, 29.

"This is a big victory," said Sgt. David Wyllie of the Citrus County Sheriff's Office. "There are a lot of missing children out there, and it's not often that you have a happy ending."

But Mrs. Croy, who lived with Summer in Orlando for three months before moving to Inverness to be with her mother, said this is no happy ending. She said she was mistreated by her husband and was trying to escape a bad marriage.

"I haven't been running," Mrs. Croy said. "I didn't go anywhere."

According to Wylie, sheriff's Detective Mitch Cook was contacted earlier this week by a police detective from Baltimore County, Md., who had a tip: Mrs. Croy and Summer may be living in a trailer on E Raccoon Court in Inverness.

The detective leading the search for the missing girl, Steve Fox, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Cook, along with authorities from the Department of Children and Families, recovered the child at 11 a.m. Tuesday at that home.

A hearing was held Wednesday before Circuit Judge Barbara Gurrola to determine where Summer should live.

According to Mrs. Croy, Gurrola ruled Wednesday in favor of Summer's father, Keith, who flew to Citrus from Maryland to pick up the child Tuesday.

Now Children and Families will determine whether to take further action against Mrs. Croy, Wyllie said.

Mrs. Croy said she and Summer left her husband in April. She had not been in communication with him but left him her address.

Mrs. Croy said she never knew her daughter had been classified as missing.

Her friends described her as a loving mother.

"She was just starting divorce proceedings when she left Maryland and didn't know she was doing anything wrong," said Stacy Shoemaker, 23, of Inverness.

Mrs. Croy said she has been taking care of her ailing mother and searching for a job. She attempted to hire a lawyer to help her gain custody of Summer after arriving in Florida, but was told she needed to wait six months to establish residency in the state.

"She is an awesome mom. . . . And now they've taken her baby away from her," Shoemaker said.

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