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Motions: Shoe print points to intruder


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 21, 2000

TAMPA -- Federal investigators apparently don't know who made a shoe print they found on the skirt of missing baby Sabrina Aisenberg's crib.

The print doesn't match shoes owned by parents Steven and Marlene Aisenberg, who are charged in her disappearance, their attorneys contend. Nor does it fit the shoe of a Hillsborough deputy investigating Sabrina's disappearance more than two years ago.

The "lugged sole" print from a shoe or boot was disclosed Monday in angry motions filed by the Aisenbergs' lawyers. They learned about it last month in a letter from federal prosecutors written the day defense motions were due.

"It is disturbing that the government made no mention of this bed ruffle prior to February 17, 2000," one defense motion states.

Court rules would require prosecutors to disclose who made the boot print if they knew. Monday's motions argue that the boot print, an unidentified hair found in Sabrina's crib, and other evidence point to a kidnapper, and that prosecutors ignored such evidence in their rush to charge Sabrina's parents.

The shoe print "belongs to an unidentified person who was in Sabrina's room and approached the crib," one defense motion states.

As is practice for federal prosecutors in a pending case, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment Monday on the motions. Defense attorneys also declined to elaborate.

The Aisenbergs reported their 5-month-old daughter missing from their Brandon house Nov. 24, 1997. A massive search ensued, but the girl was never found. Investigators remained suspicious of the couple but acknowledged they had insufficient evidence to charge the couple with murder.

Last fall the Aisenbergs, who now live in Maryland, were indicted on charges of lying to federal agents about the particulars of Sabrina's disappearance. Their trial is scheduled for July.

One motion filed Monday seeks to throw out secretly made tapes of the Aisenbergs' conversations. Investigators who obtained the order allowing the eavesdropping told a judge in a sworn statement that there were no signs of an intruder in the house, a statement the defense now terms "a fabrication of intolerable proportion."

Although crime scene technicians had access to the house on the day of Sabrina's disappearance, Sabrina's bedding was not removed until Dec. 3, 1997, a defense motion states. Investigators applied for permission to bug the couple's house Dec. 12, 1997.

According to a defense motion, failure to disclose the boot print earlier is evidence of bad faith on the part of investigators. The fact an expert's report was not done until February 2000, when the shoe print was obtained in late 1997, "makes one wonder why it took so long to conduct this analysis," one motion states.

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