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Aisenberg lawyers say officers lied to judge


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2000

TAMPA -- A neighbor of Steven and Marlene Aisenberg's reported hearing a baby's cry the morning the couple said their daughter Sabrina was kidnapped, according to a motion filed Wednesday by the Aisenbergs' defense attorneys.

Peter McDonald recalled thinking to himself, "That's a baby crying. That can't be, it's 1 in the morning. It's pitch black. Then it stopped. I thought it must have been a cat."

McDonald's house is six doors from the Aisenbergs' former Brandon residence. Behind McDonald's house is an 8-acre pond that sheriff's divers searched in the wake of 5-month-old Sabrina's disappearance. Her parents are charged with lying to police about it.

The Aisenbergs' defense attorneys, Barry Cohen and Todd Foster, filed an affidavit by McDonald in federal court Wednesday. In an accompanying motion, the attorneys argued that the affidavit is grounds to throw out the tapes investigators secretly recorded of the Aisenbergs talking.

The rationale of the defense motion is that when sheriff's detectives applied for the eavesdropping order, they lied to a judge when they said there were no signs of unusual activity in the neighborhood when Sabrina disappeared, and thus warranting a more intrusive investigation.

McDonald, a 55-year-old salesman for Haverty's Fine Furniture, said he heard the cry after his dog begged to go out the back door. He said his house is on the route someone would have to take to leave their subdivision without climbing a fence or wall.

McDonald said that when he attempted to report the cry later that day, he was met with indifference by sheriff's deputies. He said he was never called before the federal grand jury that investigated the Aisenbergs' case. McDonald said he and his wife were friendly with the Aisenbergs but did not socialize with them.

Neither federal prosecutors nor the defense attorneys are commenting on the case outside court.

-- Larry Dougherty can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or

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