Fresh leads emerge in Baby Sabrina case

A spokesman is "guardedly optimistic" about solving the case.

By JAN WESNER, Times Staff Writer
Published December 12, 2007

TAMPA -- The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is following new leads this week in the decade-old disappearance of baby Sabrina Aisenberg.

More investigators were added to the case to help chase down the information, said Tony Peluso, a Sheriff's Office attorney and spokesman on the Aisenberg case.

"We have currently some very promising leads," Peluso said Tuesday after a reporter's request for an update on the case. "I'm guardedly optimistic that leads that we have could lead us to solving the mystery of her disappearance."

Sabrina Aisenberg was 5 months old when she was reported missing on Nov. 24, 1997. Her parents, Steve and Marlene Aisenberg, said she was snatched from her crib as they slept in their home on Springville Drive in Valrico.

There has been no sign of Sabrina since.

The Aisenbergs were the main suspects almost immediately. Detectives planted eavesdropping devices in their home, and in 1999 a federal grand jury indicted them on charges of conspiracy and giving false statements.

Those charges were dismissed, and the Aisenbergs and their Tampa defense attorney, Barry Cohen, sued the Sheriff's Office.

Last month, Peluso said there were other suspects.

Some of the tips being followed could lead to evidence that might "exonerate" the Aisenbergs, Peluso said Tuesday. He would not say if he was referring to the latest information or old leads that were still being investigated.

The Sheriff's Office has followed some 2,000 tips in the decade since Sabrina disappeared, Peluso said. Several new leads were generated after heavy local news coverage of last month's anniversary of Sabrina's disappearance.

Peluso said some of the information came from a phone call that he received. He would not give any other details, including what the new information was or whether the leads were strong.

Typically, two deputies are assigned to Sabrina's case. Peluso said those deputies were following leads "on the road out of Tampa" on Tuesday. He wouldn't disclose how many other investigators had been added or what they were doing.

It's not unusual for deputies to travel out of the county to follow leads in the case, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said in a news release.

"We have received hundreds of leads through the years that have led detectives to other parts of the United States," Carter said.

Marlene Aisenberg, who now lives in Bethesda, Md., with her husband and two older children, said that she wasn't aware of any new leads and that the family is not in regular contact with the Sheriff's Office.

Cohen, the family's attorney, also said he didn't know about new leads.

Jan Wesner can be reached at jwesner@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2439.