Police: Hunt for Kansas City baby not out of steam

November 11, 2011 2:14:22 AM PST
Police say they have run out of places to look for a Kansas City baby who disappeared from her crib more than five weeks ago and whose first birthday is Friday, but the hunt for Lisa Irwin continues behind the scenes. The frantic search that began when Lisa was reported missing Oct. 4 has morphed into a less visible review of evidence. Investigators have received 1,271 tips and cleared 966 of them. Law enforcement officers initially combed the neighborhood, nearby wooded areas, industrial sites and landfills but those searches ended weeks ago. Police said that doesn't mean the investigation has lost its steam.

"We are not doing any physical field searching just to do it," Kansas City Police Capt. Steve Young said earlier this week. "If we have another idea, thought or piece of information on where to do that, we will do it before you can blink. But we aren't going to do it just to do it. We're not going to close our eyes and start throwing darts."

The baby's parents, Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin, haven't spoken publicly since allowing a national news show's television crew to follow them around while their two sons trick-or-treated on Halloween night. They also haven't been as open with investigators as police would like, further complicating the search, Young said.

"I'm not saying they're not cooperating," he said. "They have met some of our needs. What I've been talking about specifically is sitting down, separate from each other, to be interviewed by detectives. In regard to that, no, that hasn't happen since the 8th of October."

The family did bring the two sons to the police department Thursday to be interviewed about what they saw the night Lisa disappeared, Officer Darin Snapp said. Bradley and Irwin had earlier resisted allowing the interviews because they said they didn't want the boys to be traumatized by investigators, but police ensured they would be questioned by experts who specialize in dealing with children.

Joe Tacopina, the New York attorney representing the parents, declined Thursday to comment on the boys' interviews but suggested he would issue a statement about the case Friday. Tacopina has said neither the family nor attorneys would be doing any more media interviews so that they could focus on the search for Lisa.

Jeremy Irwin has said he came home around 4 a.m. Oct. 4 after a rare late shift at work and discovered the baby was gone. He said a window was ajar, all the lights were on, the front door was unlocked and three cellphones were missing.

Lisa's mother, Deborah Bradley, admits she spent the previous evening sitting outside with a neighbor, smoking cigarettes and getting drunk on boxed wine, and says she last checked on the baby around 6:30 p.m.

She has said police have accused her of being involved in the child's disappearance, and that she failed a polygraph test. In tearful early statements to the media, Bradley repeatedly insisted she doesn't know what happened to her child.

Discrepancies in Bradley's story -- she initially told investigators she checked on the baby around 10:30 p.m. -- and the parents' apparent unwillingness to speak separately with detectives have cast the family in a negative light.

Bob Lowery, executive director of the Missing Children's division with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said the time that has passed since the disappearance and the lack of solid information have heightened concerns about the girl's fate.

"Someone out there knows what happened to baby Lisa," he said. "Someone could have seen something and is reluctant to call police. That person needs to come forward and share that with the Kansas City Police Department. Hardly ever has there been a scenario like this where someone doesn't know."

John Hamilton, a criminal law professor at Park University and 26-year veteran of the Kansas City Police Department, said the case has reached a stage in which investigators are spending much of their time going over evidence to see if they have missed anything.

"Right now what you have to do is revisit what you have and pretty thoroughly analyze it, then read back to see if there's a connection that dawns on you," he said. "You're always waiting for that next tip or phone call, but that's out of your control."

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