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Baby Sabrina still appears on missing children's list


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 12, 1999

TAMPA -- Log on to the Missing Children's Help Center Web site, and you'll still see a picture of baby Sabrina Aisenberg on her stomach, staring up from the blanket-covered floor of her parents' former home in Brandon.

Despite an indictment last week that suggests 5-month-old Sabrina was killed by her father before she was reported missing nearly two years ago, the child will continue to be listed as missing.

Law enforcement officers have not told the Help Center to remove Sabrina from the list; and until her body is found or someone is convicted of causing her death, it will probably stay on the Web site, said Ivana DiNova, the center's executive director.

"We still feel it is very important to find out what happened to Sabrina," DiNova said Saturday. "I think the community and the rest of the family deserves to know. Our job is to work for Sabrina. She deserves to be found no matter how or where she is."

Steve and Marlene Aisenberg, who moved to Maryland earlier this year, were charged last week with lying to police about Sabrina's disappearance in November 1997.

A series of secretly recorded conversations suggest that Steve Aisenberg might have "harmed" the child and that both parents schemed to cover up a crime. Authorities said there is not enough evidence to charge the couple with killing the child.

Through their attorney, the Aisenbergs have denied the charges.

Despite a massive search and an extensive photo distribution campaign by the Help Center, no trace of Sabrina has ever been found.

Across the county, Sabrina's photos are distributed nationwide by the center; and a poster of Sabrina is stuck on about 500 semitrailer trucks that travel the country.

Sabrina's photograph appears with about 600 other missing children on the organization's Web site at http://www.800USAKIDS.Org.

The Web site also features 7-year-old Amanda Brown. Although her body was never found, Tampa crab fisherman Willie Crane is on trial for her murder. If Crane is convicted and law enforcement closes the file, the center also will close its case, DiNova said.

In the weeks following Sabrina's disappearance, Steve and Marlene Aisenberg joined other volunteers in stuffing envelopes with Sabrina's photograph, even as they hired an attorney and refused to cooperate with authorities looking for their daughter.

Since founding the organization in 1976, DiNova said, she has dealt with plenty of grieving parents.

Some are so involved with the search for their children, they hounded the police. Some are angry with investigators they think aren't doing enough. Some parents are even so grief-stricken that they become prisoners at home waiting for the latest call from detectives.

But DiNova said she had never seen parents avoid police. Still, she never suspected the Aisenbergs.

"Their explanation was okay with us," DiNova said. "We figured if they wanted to work with an attorney, that's up to them."

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