Missing Sabrina

Polygraph expert believes baby's parents


©St. Petersburg Times, published January 8, 1998

TAMPA -- The former FBI agent whose polygraph examination helped clear Richard Jewell in the Olympic bombing case concluded after 11 hours of questioning that the parents of missing baby Sabrina Aisenberg were not involved in her disappearance.

Tampa lawyer Barry Cohen said he sent Marlene and Steve Aisenberg for the private polygraph tests recently to counter sporadic leaks to the media by sheriff's investigators suggesting the parents were involved in the disappearance. Sabrina, who would now be 6 months old, was reported missing from her crib Nov. 24.

"I was impressed. I like them," said Richard Rackleff, the former FBI polygraph examiner whose work eliminated Jewell in the bombing of Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park. "Obviously, I don't think they have any involvement at all in any abduction. I think the baby's been snatched."

Rackleff, who charged $1,000 per day plus expenses, questioned Mrs. Aisenberg on Dec. 22 for six hours in a Tampa hotel room. He described the mother of three as a vibrant, disciplined woman who has been torn by her infant daughter's kidnapping and the subsequent public criticism questioning her role in the crime.

Her grief struck the experienced investigator as normal for an innocent victim.

"She lays awake nights and she worries about it every day," said Rackleff, who also spent more than five hours with Steve Aisenberg and determined his answers were truthful.

Cohen released the results of the tests at a news conference Wednesday afternoon in his Tampa office.

In an open letter to sheriff's Maj. Gary Terry, Cohen rejected published reports that the Aisenbergs have not cooperated with the investigation. The couple turned to him Nov. 26, after several intense interviews that led them to believe they were suspects in the case. Cohen has refused to let his clients answer questions about their conduct unless he is present, the sessions are tape recorded and he has copies of all notes taken by investigators in the first days of the case.

While saying he has respect for Terry, Cohen said he was alarmed by the lack of taped statements, and he believes some investigators are capable of doctoring handwritten notes in an attempt to distort statements made by the Aisenbergs.

Sheriff's officials don't plan to give Cohen the notes.

"A defense attorney is not privileged to open and ongoing case files," said sheriff's spokesman Lt. Greg Brown. "It's not something a sheriff's office would turn over to anyone."

Sheriff's officials, who have refused to discuss the case publicly, confirmed Wednesday the couple took three polygraph tests within two days after Sabrina was reported missing. Cohen said Mrs. Aisenberg was rushed to the Sheriff's Office on Nov. 25 for a second test after detectives learned she had scheduled a meeting with Cohen for the next day. Several media outlets subsequently reported Mrs. Aisenberg's test was inconclusive.

Brown would not discuss the findings.

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