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Some just keep seeking Sabrina


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 22, 2001

TAMPA -- A botched investigation, half-truths and high-priced lawyers have grabbed the headlines. Overlooked are the people who continue to look for Sabrina Aisenberg.

The Missing Children's Help Center in Tampa and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children near Washington have caseworkers trying to bring Sabrina home, just as they have since the day of her disappearance in November 1997.

When the Aisenbergs were favorites on the television talk show circuit, the centers were looking. When the talk shows forgot about Sabrina, they still looked.

And when the Aisenbergs were indicted by a federal grand jury, they kept looking.

"Our job isn't to get concerned with any of the details of the case, the blame," said Ivana DiNova, executive director and founder of the Missing Children's Help Center. "Our job is to find children and bring them home.

"At this particular time, everybody has to take stock and concentrate again on finding Sabrina," DiNova said.

DiNova founded the Help Center in 1982, six years after her 12-year-old cousin, Dorothy D. Scofield, was reported missing. Twenty-four years after her disappearance, Dorothy's picture is among the hundreds of photos of missing children posted on the center's web site.

One of them is Amanda Brown, the 7-year-old Seffner girl whose disappearance was blamed on commercial crabber Willie Crain. He was convicted of her murder without a body and now sits on death row. DiNova said she doesn't expect to find Amanda alive.

"But what if some of these children are found dead, and because there's no way to check, they're buried in a John Doe grave and their parents always wonder?" DiNova said. "These children deserve more than that."

The point, DiNova said, is that you never give up, not until the child, or a body, is found.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was created in 1984 by John Walsh, whose 6-year-old son, Adam, was kidnapped in 1981. Caseworkers at the center provided the technology that developed the photograph of what Sabrina might look like today, based on her features as a baby and the features of her older sister.

Both centers stay in contact with law enforcement authorities and with the families of missing children. Their main objective is to disseminate photographs and information and to take in tips through their Web sites and toll-free numbers.

Not everybody looking is a professional, though.

Web page designer Sonya Marvel of Brandon is not associated with any missing children's organization. But for three years she has maintained the Sabrina Paige Aisenberg Web site, dedicated to finding a child she never met.

Three months after she started the page, she met Marlene Aisenberg and considers her a friend. As the case erupted and the Aisenbergs were implicated in Sabrina's disappearance, Marvel said, she tried to keep the page neutral.

Visit the Missing Children's Help Center at The national center can be reached at Marvel's Web site is at

-- Angela Moore can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or

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