Police said Bill Stanton, who declined to say who hired him, won't have access to any case files related to their search for Lisa Irwin because he isn't law enforcement. He also doesn't appear to be licensed as a private investigator in Missouri as required when acting in that capacity.
"He will have access to anything the general public has access to," Kansas City police spokesman Capt. Steve Young said.
When asked by the Associated Press if he has handled a missing child case, Stanton said he couldn't detail cases involving children, then responded "Google me" when asked to discuss any of his past cases. He said he has worked as a consultant for "major media organizations," and the website for a consulting firm that lists him as a founding partner said he was a New York police officer before moving into private investigative work.
Lisa's parents, Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin, reported their daughter missing early Oct. 4, saying she disappeared from her crib at their single-story home sometime overnight as her mother slept in a nearby room.
Hundreds of local, state and federal investigators have been looking for the child ever since, scouring through hundreds of tips and repeatedly searching the family's neighborhood, nearby woods, sewers and a landfill. But police said they have no suspects or solid leads.
Stanton said a wealthy "benefactor" connected to a family member asked him to get involved and acknowledged the family didn't hire him. Stanton said he would fly in other people on Thursday, but wouldn't elaborate.
He said he would be managing any media inquiries directed at the family, which family members confirmed. They said he had their support.
"I am hopeful this child is safe and alive," Stanton said. "I don't want to make this about me."
On Wednesday, detectives using all-terrain vehicles and tracking dogs searched a heavily wooded area a few blocks from the home, but it turned up nothing. Young said more than 40 detectives, along with the FBI and other police departments, are working the case.
What Stanton could offer the investigation is unclear.
Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said his organization doesn't work with private investigators and had not heard of Stanton.
"Families in these situations are desperate and feel the need to do anything they can possibly do," Allen said. "I hope he helps them."
Jimmie Mesis, editor-in-chief of New Jersey-based PI Magazine, a trade magazine for private investigators, said he has heard of Stanton. He said Stanton's involvement could be troublesome if he interferes with witnesses, but he also could keep a national spotlight on the case -- even if that attention is focused on "Wild Bill," a moniker for which Stanton has become popular.
"With Bill, one benefit, because he has celebrity status as a private investigator, the media is going to be interested in seeing what he's doing," Mesis said. "He's putting his reputation on the line, too."