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Day of blessing passes without baby Sabrina

By MARTY ROSEN

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 28, 1998


BRANDON -- Marlene and Steve Aisenberg had hoped to hold a family celebration Friday to give their youngest daughter, Sabrina, her Hebrew name on the day she turned 9 months old.

The celebration would have coincided with their 11th wedding anniversary, on Sunday. Back in September, when the Aisenberg family was still intact, they had made their plans with joy.

Their relatives would gather from Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maryland. They planned a shabbat dinner for Friday night, a day at the beach Saturday, and a ceremony with 75 friends on Sunday, when Sabrina would be named for her late grandmother, Sylvia.

"We thought we were having a double mitzvah," or double blessing, Marlene Aisenberg said Friday. Instead, Rabbi Marc Sack will come to their home Sunday to pray with them alone for a baby who vanished in November.

"We're praying for her safety, praying she's being taken care of and praying she'll be home soon. It's not a celebration in any way," Mrs. Aisenberg said. "I just want to be alone."

Four months after their daughter disappeared from her crib without a trace, the Aisenbergs struggle to maintain a normal home life for themselves and their older children, William, 8, and Monica, 4.

A federal grand jury continues to investigate the missing child case while the Aisenbergs refuse to talk to police about the events of the night their daughter disappeared. Their attorney believes the police are attempting to frame them.

To plea for help in finding their daughter, the Aisenbergs have appeared on Oprah, the Today show and Larry King Live, strange twists in the lives of two parents who say they just wanted to raise their kids in a quiet suburb.

Steve Aisenberg has returned to work selling new homes for M/I Homes. Mrs. Aisenberg fields the endless phone calls from friends, the media and her attorney's office, and watches closely over her children. Too closely, she says.

"I'm terrified," she said. She says she won't let her 8-year-old son ride his bike out of her sight, or walk to a friend's house around the corner. He asks if he can play basketball in the driveway, and she sends him to the back yard, where she can hear him.

"I don't think it's going to stop even after Sabrina comes home because I'm a totally different person, and that's very scary for me. I feel like I'm a shell of who I used to be."

Some decisions have been put on hold until they find Sabrina. They say they live in fear inside their four-bedroom house, on what was once considered a safe cul-de-sac, but won't consider moving while their baby is gone. Other changes can't be helped.

Daughter Monica has grown 2 inches. Son William is blossoming as a writer and artist.

Both children have been told from the start that they must believe Sabrina is in a safe place, with adults who are taking proper care of her. Still, that didn't prepare Mrs. Aisenberg last week for something William said.

"I'm getting sadder and sadder, mommy," he said. "I'm starting to think about Sabrina with a new mommy and daddy."

Mrs. Aisenberg said she choked back tears and gently corrected him. "They're not her mommy and daddy. She's coming home."


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