By KATHRYN WEXLER and MARTY ROSEN
©St. Petersburg Times, published December 2, 1997
BRANDON -- The extended family of a missing 5-month girl pleaded on national television Monday night for her kidnapper not to harm her over a grudge the kidnapper might harbor against her parents.
At times fighting back tears, Stan Sadowsky and Elaine Weinberger, the baby's maternal grandfather and aunt, talked on CNN's Larry King Live show about the mysterious disappearance.
"We're just asking whoever has this baby, whatever money they're asking for, we will give you more," Sadowsky said to the camera. "Whatever the reason, if you had an anger against (parents) Molly or Steve, don't take it out on the baby."
Sabrina vanished from her Brandon home on Nov. 24. Marlene Aisenberg said she checked on her infant daughter in her crib around midnight, then discovered her missing at 6:42 in the morning. The family had left the garage door open during the night, and authorities said the door leading into the home was unlocked. Neither the family dog nor Sabrina's two siblings took notice of any intruder.
Barry Cohen, a high-profile Tampa attorney representing Sabrina's parents, said he made the decision that they shouldn't appear on the television program Monday night. The ordeal has left the couple too fragile, he said.
"They're not emotionally available," Cohen said. "These people are totally traumatized by this and they're in no position or condition to deal with the public clamor."
When Sabrina disappeared, some speculated that her parents might be implicated. But authorities on Monday said Sabrina's disappearance is being treated as a kidnapping and that they don't think her parents are involved.
"No, they are not suspects," Lt. Greg Brown, spokesman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, told host Larry King during the program.
"The parents are the victims and they have more information of who may have done this than anyone else. So that's the reason for extensive interviews with them," Brown said during the program.
Marlene and Steve Aisenberg have declined to meet directly with reporters to discuss their daughter's kidnapping. They released a home video the night she disappeared, appealing for her return. And they appeared at a press conference last Wednesday at Cohen's office, but did not speak.
At an afternoon news conference in Tampa, Hillsborough County sheriff's detectives Monday appealed to the public for fresh clues. With few leads and no suspects, their latest hope is that someone has noticed the sudden appearance of a dark-haired, blue-eyed, 5-month-old baby in the home of a neighbor, friend or relative.
"Maybe a family member saw a child they hadn't seen before," said sheriff's Maj. Gary Terry, who said he remains optimistic despite the paucity of information. "Maybe someone is telling someone they've adopted a child."
Detectives have received 65 leads in a case being worked by up to 40 agents from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and FBI. They responded to some tips from people who thought they saw the Aisenberg baby, and deputies on Monday continued to canvass the Aisenberg's Bloomingdale neighborhood. Meanwhile, Terry said some evidence was taken from the home, but he would not elaborate.
Another guest on Larry King Live, former FBI agent Gregg McCrary, said the kidnapper is probably not after ransom money, since no contact had been made with Sabrina's family. More likely, he said, a woman stole the baby and intends to keep her. About 95 percent of such cases get solved, he said.
After a couple of Florida callers to the show asked about Marlene Aisenberg's on-camera demeanor just after the infant vanished, Weinberger begged people not to judge her sister on her "stoic" appearance. Both McCrary and Brown backed her point, saying people react differently when they're traumatized.
"She didn't look anything like herself," Weinberger said. "The stress of the day, the shock of the day, really affected her."
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