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The Aisenbergs have found living on Springville Drive a painful reminder of their missing child, their attorney says.
By RICHARD DANIELSON
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 1999
BRANDON -- As Marlene and Steve Aisenberg prepare to move their family to Maryland, out of the suburb where their infant daughter vanished 17 months ago, the investigation into the disappearance of Sabrina Paige Aisenberg goes on.
Hillsborough County sheriff's detectives still want to question the Aisenbergs about the night of Nov. 24, 1997, the last night they saw Sabrina. The couple still believes investigators should be looking somewhere else in the hope of finding their daughter alive.
Sheriff's Lt. Greg Brown said Monday that authorities have been aware that the Aisenbergs were going to move, but that the fact has no bearing on his agency's work. Six detectives will stay on the case full time, and a grand jury probe into Sabrina's disappearance is "very active."
"We have followed up on over 1,900 leads and conducted over 6,000 interviews," Brown said. Tips have led investigators to every state in the United States except Nebraska as well as six countries: Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, the Bahamas, Germany and England.
"They still have not been ruled out as suspects," Brown said of the Aisenbergs, "but we have no suspects at this time."
The Aisenbergs' attorney, Barry Cohen of Tampa, said neither he nor they would discuss a move, which was reported by WFLA-Ch. 8 over the weekend and supported by the observations of neighbors.
Neighbors say Steve Aisenberg moved out of the family's home on Springville Drive a few weeks ago. Marlene Aisenberg and the couple's two children are expected to follow him to Baltimore, where he has a job selling real estate, once the school year ends. A real estate agent's lockbox is on the front door of their house now.
Cohen did say the ordeal of losing Sabrina, being investigated and finding themselves at the center of a nationally publicized mystery "absolutely" has shaped their decisions about where they want to live.
"It's very, very difficult to live in this environment, a constant reminder of the loss of your child," Cohen said. That has meant "having to deal with some people who stare and some people who make comments that are insensitive. But by and large the people have been very supportive. Steve's got to go where he can make a living, too."
Cohen challenged the suggestion that the Aisenbergs, who moved to Brandon from Maryland in 1991, are not cooperating with detectives. What they are most concerned about, he said, is getting their daughter back.
"We met with (investigators) less than a month ago for three or four hours," he said. At the meeting, which was scheduled after inquiries from the family and their attorney, the Aisenbergs agreed to make one of their cars and a rug available so that detectives could check them for evidence, Cohen said.
"We're continuing to cooperate with them," he said. "We were mainly interested in getting an up-"I think one of the things that's important in an investigation like this is that over time friendships change, business relationships change and people come forward. Anyone that has information, although in their opinion it may not be worth anything, we encourage them to call and pass it on. We still believe that the answers to this are in Hillsborough County."
-- LT. GREG BROWN
Brown said "the hope is the child would be alive." But, he added, "statistically and historically . . . the longer it takes to find the child, the less of a chance (there is) that the child would be found alive.
As for the Aisenbergs' cooperation, Brown noted that "they still have not provided a formal interview, and they have refused spontaneous interviews throughout the investigation."
On the night Sabrina disappeared, Mrs. Aisenberg has said, she last checked on the 5-month-old around midnight. The baby's crib was empty when she went into Sabrina's room at 6:30 the next morning. There was no sign of forced entry, and Brownie, the family's dog, did not alert them to any problem during the night.
Brown said investigators believe someone can solve the mystery into Sabrina's disappearance, but it might take time before that person comes forward.
"I think one of the things that's important in an investigation like this is that over time friendships change, business relationships change and people come forward," he said. "Anyone that has information, although in their opinion it may not be worth anything, we encourage them to call and pass it on. We still believe that the answers to this are in Hillsborough County."
Asked whether detectives think that the answers will remain in Hillsborough County after the Aisenbergs move, Brown considered the question for a long time.
Then he said, "We still have unresolved issues with the family, but we still have communications with their attorney and will continue to look at the set of events which occurred that night."
-- Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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