Where's Our Baby

Troy Roberts Reports On Baby That Vanished Over 10 Years Ago

This story originally aired on Jan. 15, 2005.

Sabrina, the youngest daughter of Marlene and Steve Aisenberg, has not been seen or heard from since Nov. 24, 1997. It's been more than ten long years since the five-month-old baby seemingly vanished.

"I have dreams often that she's coming home, and that we're playing, and the dreams are as vivid as they are real," says Steve.

"I believe she's just a beautiful young lady, 7 years old," says Marlene. "She's not a baby anymore."

They've tried to rebuild their lives, but Marlene says, "We are as happy as we can be until she comes home. … We will be an ecstatic family when we're all together like we should be."

For the Aisenbergs, the ordeal began in Valrico, Fla., just outside of Tampa. On the morning of Nov. 24, 1997, at 6:30 a.m., Marlene noticed that something had gone terribly wrong.

"It's the most horrific thing you can imagine, looking into your child's crib and not seeing her there," says Marlene. "There is just nothing to describe it, and I remember just screaming, "Steve" and calling 911."

Marlene and Steve would like to forget everything about that awful night -- especially the garage door that they admit leaving open. That night, with the door open, the Aisenbergs can only assume that someone crept quietly into the house and snatched Sabrina while they were sleeping.

After Marlene called 911, Steve went next door to his neighbor, former Tampa cop Scott Middleton. Immediately, Middleton's police training kicked in: "I'm a parent myself, and if one of my kids was gone, there's just no way I'd be able to hold back the emotions."

But, as correspondent Troy Roberts reports, it was just the beginning of the nightmare for the Aisenbergs, whose behavior was being examined and analyzed.

"There was no emotion," says Middleton. "There was absolutely no emotion with Steve and Marlene, like nothing had happened. They weren't broken up, no tears being shed."

But Marlene insists she was crazed the morning Sabrina disappeared: "I was in hysterics. I didn't understand anything that was going on."

Within minutes from receiving a call, deputies from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department descended on the Aisenberg home -- and the media was right behind them.

"This was the lead story in our newscast everyday for months, because everyday there was something new to tell," says reporter Bill McGinty, who covered the story for WTSP, the CBS affiliate in Tampa.

Sheriff's deputies began an extensive search in and around the Aisenberg home, but found nothing. Deputies were struck by the chaotic nature of the Aisenberg home. To the cops, it spelled neglect. But to her friends, it was just the way Marlene was.

"She was not an immaculate housekeeper," says her friend, Kathy Dotson. "Anybody would attest to that her house was a mess."

By the end of that first horrible day, police encouraged Steve and Marlene to go on television and plead for their daughter's safe return. But to a curious public, the Aisenbergs seemed cold and aloof.

"You're in shock, and I don't wish anybody having to step into my shoes. My baby is gone. I have no idea where she is and I have to say something," says Marlene.

"You don't know what to say, you don't know how to react. There's not a book you can read on what to go through when you've had something horrible happen in your life. I was in shock. I was in disbelief. I didn't understand what was happening to me, to us, to our family."

Everything was going against the Aisenbergs. For instance, there was a snippet of videotape that showed, for a brief moment, Steve with a smile on his face.

"A lot of our behavior was what was dictated for us to do and be by the police," says Steve. "When we were leaving the house one day, they made a joke and we laughed."

"The focus of the story shifted from Sabrina Aisenberg, 5-month-old missing baby, to Marlene and Steve Aisenberg," says McGinty.

Even Brownie the family dog came under scrutiny. Why had he not barked at the intruder? "Brownie barked at everybody," says Middleton. "She just always barked. She was a noisy dog. I don't ever remember her being quiet."