Search for baby focuses on river
By RICHARD DANIELSON
©St. Petersburg Times, published December 12, 1997
BRANDON -- What is probably the largest search of its kind ever
in Hillsborough County, and perhaps one of the biggest in Florida
history, moved Thursday to the banks of the Alafia River.
But investigators still turned up no trace of baby Sabrina Aisenberg.
The river had been on the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office's
list of areas to search, but a tip generated from the television
show America's Most Wanted focused authorities' interest on a
particular boat ramp.
Sheriff's officials who combed the banks and a 2-mile stretch
of the river found lots of dead fish from a weekend acid spill
but "no evidence that would help the investigation," Lt. Stan
Sabrina vanished from her parents' suburban home Nov. 24, setting
off an investigation that has captured national attention, including
a segment Dec. 7 on America's Most Wanted.
WTVT-Ch. 13 reported Thursday that one tip generated by that show
concerned a man and woman reportedly seen getting out of a white
van at the Center Avenue boat ramp with what appeared to be a
baby, walking to the river and returning without the baby.
Sheriff's officials would not, however, discuss the content of
"We received about 80 tips from that show," sheriff's spokesman
Lt. Greg Brown said. "One of them led us to an area on the river
by a boat ramp. We're not going to get into what leads we have
as far as what are the details. In addition to going in a lot
of directions, we're searching that area also."
Arthur Cuscaden, who has lived next to the boat ramp since the
mid-1960s, said neither he nor his wife had seen the kind of activity
reportedly included in the tip.
Cuscaden, 56, did note that in good weather the boat ramp stays
active all day and night, which could make it difficult for anyone
to come and go without someone noticing. Neighbors come down to
fish at night, teenagers hang out to drink beer, and in the 1970s
drug dealers even did business there, he said.
"I've complained for years about it," he said of the activity.
"I've finally given up."
Divers are not expected to begin a search of the river's bottom
before Monday, Doss said. Today, sheriff's officials will meet
to discuss just how much farther the search will go.
Thanks to help from law enforcement agencies from as far away
as Miami-Dade and Lake counties, deputies will have walked nearly
four square miles around the Aisenbergs' home and covered at least
a dozen ponds by this weekend. Doss said the goal has been to
search every pond next to any road leading from the Aisenbergs'
Thursday's effort involved 160 people, 91 divers or dive-support
personnel and another 70 walking the ground. As one set of agencies
drops off the search and others join, the search today is expected
to include about 70 people.
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