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Major figures in the Aisenberg case

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 22, 2001

Steven Aisenberg, 37, met his wife while a junior at the University of Maryland. The couple settled in the Tampa area in 1991 to raise their three children. Was selling new homes for M/I Homes at the time of Sabrina's disappearance. Refused to talk to investigators. Accused by prosecutors of doing cocaine the night Sabrina disappeared, of having something to do with her disappearance and of lying to investigators. Moved his family to Maryland in 1999.

Marlene Aisenberg, 38, placed 911 call at 6:42 a.m. Nov. 24, 1997, to report Sabrina missing. Spent her days in Valrico as a homemaker while working 10 hours a week running Playtime Pals, a program for toddlers and their mothers. Refused to talk to investigators. Prosecutors charged her with lying to investigators and covering up for her husband. Said Wednesday from Maryland that she wants the search for Sabrina to continue.

Barry Cohen, 61, hired by the Aisenbergs in the days after Sabrina was reported missing. Advised his clients not to talk to investigators. Fended off an attempt by prosecutors to have him removed from the case. Said investigators had no evidence and were focusing entirely on his clients while ignoring other leads. His motions in federal court led to the move Wednesday to dismiss the case. Considered a top defense attorney in the area, Cohen has won other high-profile cases, including the acquittal of William A. LaTorre, a St. Petersburg chiropractor charged in the boating deaths of four teenagers in 1989.

Linda Sue Burton, 49, lead detective on the Sabrina case. Joined the Sheriff's Office in 1984 as an auxiliary deputy and in 1995 started the state's first Child Death Review Team. Honored in 1997 as officer of the year. Helped gain conviction of Pasco couple in 1996 on charges they tried to sell their newborn in a parking lot. Some of the charges against another couple charged with killing their baby were dropped after questions were raised about the evidence. She moved to bug the Aisenberg home and is accused by a federal magistrate of lying about the content of surveillance tapes gathered by those bugs. Was put on paid administrative leave Wednesday pending a criminal investigation into her conduct. Has not spoken publicly about the accusations.

William Blake, 52, a former bank vice president who joined the Sheriff's Office full-time in 1988. Joined criminal investigations bureau in 1994 and won plaudits in 1995 for arrests of seven gang members on crimes ranging from burglary to attempted murder. He was involved in the bugging of Aisenberg home and is accused by a federal magistrate of lying about the tapes. Was put on paid administrative leave pending a criminal investigation. Has not spoken publicly about the accusations.

Stephen Kunz, 51, lead prosecutor on the case, he presented evidence to the grand jury that indicted the Aisenbergs. Has called defense attorney Barry Cohen's representation of the Aisenbergs "reprehensible conduct" and tried to force Cohen off the case. His case was ravaged last week by a federal magistrate who accused detectives of using lies and distortions. Kunz worked on the Rev. Henry J. Lyons prosecution and on the prosecution of a militia member charged with scheming to blow up power lines. Has not spoken publicly about the magistrate's accusations in the Aisenberg case. His boss, U.S. Attorney Donna Bucella, has not spoken publicly about his conduct.

Rachelle DesVaux Bedke, 36, federal prosecutor who worked the case with Kunz. Said in court when the Aisenbergs were indicted that Steve Aisenberg talked of being high on cocaine the night Sabrina disappeared. No reference to cocaine was discerned on the tapes during reviews by a federal magistrate. Has not spoken publicly about the case. Her boss, Bucella, has not spoken publicly about her conduct.

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