tv 2020 ABC March 16, 2018 10:01pm-11:00pm PDT
911. >> my baby's been kidnapped. >> ma'am, you need to calm down. >> i didn't know what to think. i'm just screaming. >> reporter: tonight on 20/20, a breakthrough in the story that transfixed the nation. the disappearance of baby sabrina. >> a 5-month-old girl who disappeared from her home on the middle of the night. >> this is where he heard the baby crying. >> reporter: grieving parents, what some thought didn't quite look the part. perception was that they were cold. >> seen by some as being unemotional. >> reporter: before long police are zeroing in on them. >> they said, we believe you know where your daughter is. >> reporter: but the aisenbergs say they know nothing. they hire a lawyer and stop cooperating. >> they're doing a half-assed job of trying to find sabrina. >> reporter: after a massive search on the ground, in the
air, in the water -- >> they were looking for a body and not a baby. >> reporter: the parents arrested. >> they busted in my front door, pointing a gun at me. >> reporter: charging steven and marlene aisenberg. >> do either one of you have anything you want to say? >> reporter: they had plenty to say according to police, who had secretly bugged their house. >> the baby's dead because you did it. >> we did not. we did not. >> did you start to believe that they were being framed? >> yes. >> reporter: but now, the new story begins. technology that can turn an infant into an adult. and a facebook message from a 20-year-old woman who could be sabrina. >> i wake up and look at my phone, my heart's racing. >> reporter: tonight, closer than ever to finding the answer? i'm elizabeth vargas and this is "20/20." >> sabrina, come crawl to mommy, come here! come here, gorgeous. >> reporter: it's the classic family home video, a five month old baby girl learning to crawl.
>> and there she's crawling. >> this is sabrina's first video and here she's crawling. >> reporter: sabrina aisenberg captured for the very first time by adoring mom marlene in november, 1997. but this tape wouldn't become just another family memory. it would become the last precious image ever captured of sabrina. the next day she would vanish. i first met steve and marlene aisenberg just months after their daughter disappeared. today, they say their pain is as raw as ever. how much do you think about her? >> we think about her every day. sabrina has a room in our home. so this is sabrina's room. this is the room that, you know, when sabrina comes home, this is her room. >> are these her baby clothes?
>> these are them, and i said from the beginning, and i still say it. when she comes home, we're going to donate them together. we changed the room a few years ago from the toys because she is 20 years old now. >> she is 20 years old now. is 20 years old. so you feel confident that she is still alive? >> absolutely. >> oh, yeah. absolutely. who would take a baby to hurt them? >> do you play that in the back of your mind? finding her missing, and running to the neighbor and calling 911. how much do you remember all that? >> i don't play it back. it hurts too much. it's pain >> reporter: it was november 23, 1997, a sunday night and the family spent it watching a movie. marlene and steve tucked their three kids, 8-year-old william, 4-year-old monica and baby sabrina into bed for the night. the next morning, marlene recalls waking up and getting her son out of bed first. >> and as i turned around, i look out into there and notice my laundry door to out to my garage is opened. and then as i got closer, i'm
looking now out to the street and seeing that my garage door is up. so now, i'm just looking straight out to the street, and i ran into the first bedroom, which is sabrina's room, and i look in the crib and sabrina's gone. and i scream -- scream. >> reporter: her new baby, and her favorite yellow blanket, both gone without a trace. >> 911. >> i need a police. my baby's been kidnapped. >> ma'am, you need to calm down. >> okay. >> take a deep breath. >> i just got up to wake my son up. my door was wide open, and my baby's gone. >> how old is your baby? >> my baby is 5 months old. oh, god help me. >> reporter: marlene says she frantically ran to her next door neighbor's house. >> and i opened the door and she said my baby's gone, my baby's gone. and i said what do you mean your baby's gone and i put my arm around her shoulder and she said, "somebody came in and took my baby." >> reporter: the aisenbergs say
they had accidentally left their garage door up all night, and not for the first time. was there any sign someone had been in your house? >> other than the door being opened. >> the blanket missing. >> the laundry door, was it closed when you went to bed? >> yes. >> was it locked? >> no. it's something that we never lock because during the day when the children are playing, that's where they go in and out with their bikes and basketball out front. >> reporter: but we're talking about the middle of the day. i'm talking about the middle of the night. >> we felt that we were living in an area that was safer. we were on a cul-de-sac. there's one way in and one way out. we had a sense of security, a false sense of security. >> reporter: their four-bedroom home nestled in the suburban sprawl of valrico, florida, a middle class neighborhood outside tampa where each house resembles the other. some know valrico for the flooding brought by last year's hurricane irma and the deluge of media that descended after baby sabrina vanished. >> it's heart wrenching. it really is.
i mean just -- for them to have to go through what they are going through. >> reporter: the community is stunned. how could a baby go missing in the night without anyone hearing a thing? even the aisenberg's family dog brownie didn't make a sound. but how can you explain how someone could get in here, and you don't hear them, and you don't find any sign that they've been in here? >> well, how do people get robbed all the time, and they're sleeping, and somebody goes in and steals a tv or their china. this is the same thing, except they took our baby instead of china or a tv. >> what stood out was just how bizarre this abduction was. >> reporter: graham brink, an editor at the "tampa bay times" was on the story from the very beginning. >> the idea that someone could have walked into a suburban home in the middle of the night, plucked a 5-month-old child out of her crib obviously raised a lot of suspicion around the aisenbergs. >> it's unusual for a true kidnapping.
a lot of times they find out that it's someone the family knew or had knowledge of. and that's part of the leads were looking at. >> reporter: this video from that morning showing a distraught marlene led from her home by lead detectives linda burton and william blake, while investigators begin sweeping it for clues. they dust the garage for prints, confiscate the family cars. and bring the aisenbergs to the police station for questioning. >> they interviewed us separately, doing a polygraph for marlene and then one for me. >> did you have any concerns any objections to doing the polygraph test? >> no, we even at the time offered to give them blood and fingerprints. >> anything they needed. >> reporter: hours later, the couple says the police coached them in this televised plea. >> please bring our baby back to us. she needs her mother and her father. we all miss her and love her very much and we need her to come home to us please.
>> it backfired. because the perception was that they were cold. >> marlene was seen by some as being a not authentic. unemotional uh, as you know, law enforcement seemed to focus in on that display. >> it took all the strength that i had to say what i said, and then the minute i was done i broke down in tears. okay? hysterical. but of course, the cameras were not put on me then. >> reporter: yet the criticism would only grow, especially when, the day after their daughter's disappearance, the couple was caught on camera appearing to be laugh with detectives. >> they said something funny on the way to the car, so that's where they got the film of me smiling. >> it was like gas on a flame when they were pictured smiling so soon after sabrina had gone missing. >> reporter: then there were the polygraphs. steve passes his, but marlene's comes back inconclusive. so police bring her in for another. but once again, the results are the same.
>> what did the police say to you, what did they ask you? >> they sat across from me and leaned forward, and they said, "marlene, statistics show it's the parents that do these things. we believe you know where your daughter is. we believe you know what happened." and i have no idea. so here i am, my daughter's gone, and now i have the police sitting across from me, who i think are going to help me, tell me that they think i know something about my baby.n we co back, with police zeroing in -- >> i would like to talk to an attorney. >> reporter: the aisenbergs shut down. >> law enforcement look at that as, well, they must be trying to hide something. >> if you're innocent, why do you need a lawyer? >> reporter: stay with us. tay with us. others who felt a connection. many more who never saw it coming. but now they know... they descend from the people of ireland. in fact, more than half of our community have discovered their irish roots...
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i would like to say to whoever has my children, please bring them home. that's all. >> reporter: in 1995, just two years before baby sabrina vanished, all eyes were on this woman, susan smith. >> the state intends to seek the death penalty. >> reporter: the tearful young south carolina mom told police her young sons were abducted during a carjacking. >> we have to remember the timing of sabrina's disappearance. they were functioning under the cloud of susan smith. >> reporter: in a gruesome turn, smith would later confess that she drove her own children into a lake, letting them drown hoping to win the affection a boyfriend who said he didn't want children. >> they did not want to follow in those steps. they wanted solve the case and not be upheld to public ridicule because of their investigation. >> reporter: now here in florida, the public and police are wondering if
marlene aisenberg is just the latest mother turned murderer. >> we love her very much and need her to come home. >> reporter: when i met the couple 20 years ago, suspicion had already engulfed their lives. >> reporter: does it get an easier? >> no never. >> reporter: all these years later and still no answers. what really happened in this tampa suburb in the middle of the night? was it a kidnapping as the aisenbergs say or do they know more than they're letting on? >> there's a very serious story out of florida that's making national headlines. >> reporter: the investigation into that question transfixes the national media. >> it created a media frenzy. >> now involved in the search for a missing baby. >> deputies expanded their search for sabrina. >> when they come to the home, there are a lot of suspicious circumstances.
>> it struck fear into the hearts and the minds of families all over the country, to think that while you're asleep and your child is one room away, that they could be taken. >> reporter: when marlene's polygraph tests come back inconclusive, she says police questioning becomes more aggressive. >> i couldn't believe it! i just was answering everything they said! you know? they would throw, you know, "oh you're under stress." and i would, "no i'm not under stress! you know, i have three beautiful children. >> at the time i said, "are you charging us with anything? he said no to those questions. and then i said, "then i'd like to see - talk to an attorney." >> that didn't sit well with the public or the police. >> reporter: and they don't hire just any lawyer. they take on famed florida attorney barry cohen. >> they're doing a half-assed job of trying to find sabrina. >> reporter: i spoke to him in 2008. why do they need a lawyer? >> they were being accused of a crime they didn't chit. anybody that's accuse of a crime
they didn't commit sure needs a lawyer pretty badly. >> reporter: today, cohen is waging a more personal battle, fighting cancer. >> we're at the cul de sac where the aisenbergs live. >> reporter: so we caught up with his old team who helped defend the aisenbergs, lawyers todd foster and steve romine and private investigator kevin kalwary. did you all make a conscious decision to cut them off from police and cooperation? >> yes. we sensed that the sheriff's office wasn't as interested in involving the case as they were making a case against the aisenbergs. >> law enforcement will look at that and say, if you are not being guilty, just being honest is going to help the cops find your child. >> reporter: in the days following sabrina's s disappearance, the police mount a massive search. in the ground, in the air, surrounding the home. >> detectives say the blood hounds were onto something.
>> at the time, it was the largest land and water search in florida history. >> reporter: and with the couple refusing to talk, it sets up a standoff between the parents and the police. >> as far as the questions we would like to ask them, they would need a formal interview. >> reporter: lieutenant greg brown was the spokesperson in 1998. can you understand their reluctance? >> no, i can't because i would like my child back, and i would do whatever it talks. >> reporter: if you have nothing to hide, why not just tell the police anything and everything and let them say anything and everything? >> we tried. we called the police a week ago and said, we would come in and talk to them as long as it could be taped and our attorney could be present. and they said, no. >> they don't want the information to find sabrina. they want the information to close the case. they have even said to our relatives, we're not looking for a baby. we're looking for a body. how would you feel as a parent when you heard that? does that make you feel open to talking to them?
>> reporter: so while police continue their massive search, the aisenbergs attend candle light vigils surrounded by supporters and work to get sabrina's picture out far and wide. >> i smile at every baby i see to see if it smiles back. and if it does, i know it might be sabrina. >> reporter: and while they aren't talking to police, they are talking to the media, appearing on "good morning america." >> we are now joined by marlene and steve aisenberg. >> reporter: "oprah" and "20/20." >> we take you inside this explosive case. >> reporter: then two months after sabrina vanished, the aisenbergs find themselves in danger of losing their two other children as well. this time at the hands of florida's child protective services. how frightening was it for you? the department of children and family services showed up and started -- >> it was -- >> reporter: looking at your other children. >> it was scary as hell. >> and we -- we -- you know what, we left the room and let them interview our children. and after they left, they said, "these kids are great. there's nothing wrong in this household."
>> reporter: a week later, the couple back on the hot seat this time with federal prosecutors asking questions in front of a grand jury. >> do either one of you have anything you want to say? >> reporter: but if authorities think this will finally get the aisenbergs talking again, they are wrong. >> steve and marlene aisenberg were silent as they walked into federal courthouse. and apparently they also had little to say before the federal grand jury. >> you would think that, naturally, parents of a child that had gone missing would spill everything they know in the hope that maybe it could help the investigation. that's not what happened. the aisenbergs, took the fifth amendment in grand jury. >> reporter: why? >> well that's what we were advised to do from our attorney. >> because it was a stacked deck in our view, against them. >> reporter: but you understand to a lot of people, it didn't look good for them to take the fifth. >> plenty of people that are innocent take the fifth. if there is somebody on the other side that has an intent to try and hurt you, you can tell the truth. but they take your words and they spin it to fit what they want.
>> reporter: how did this ordeal affect this family? >> it ran them out of town. they had to leave tampa. it was just untenable for them to remain in this community. >> reporter: nearly two years after sabrina vanished, the family moves to maryland, back into steve's childhood home. >> one of the biggest reasons we were moving was because we couldn't raise our children to respect the authorities there. >> reporter: but the aisenbergs discover that 1,000 miles cannot protect them from determined florida authorities. >> they busted in my front door. >> reporter: who will reveal they have secret tapes. you never heard, "the baby's dead and buried. it was found dead because you did it." stay with us. i'm mark and i quit smoking with chantix. i tried, um, cold turkey. i tried the patches. i was tired and i was fed up. i wanted to try something different. for me, chantix really worked. along with support, chantix (varenicline) is proven to help people quit smoking. chantix reduced my urge to smoke.
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>> reporter: the couple flees florida for the refuge to maryland, but on accept 9, 1999, a knock on the door sends their new lives spinning. >> i noticed a bunch of new cars coming up and a lot of men getting out of the cars and they busted in my front door and they are pointing a gun at me. and they're like, "marlene, put down the phone." and i said, "put down the gun and i'll put down the phone." >> reporter: steve aisenberg is
at his real estate office when police arrive for him. >> they said we've you know so got a break in the case. i go great. did you find our daughter, was my first question. and they said we're here to arrest you. >> reporter: arrested not for the death of their daughter, but charged with lying to law enforcement about what happened to her. >> there was a dramatic break in the case. >> steven and marlene aisenberg, have been charged with lying to authorities. >> reporter: the indictment includes jaw-dropping quotes implicating the aisenbergs in the death of their infant daughter. >> the aisenbergs discussed on several occasions that the baby was actually dead. >> is there anything at all that you guys have to say? >> reporter: and just how did prosecutors know what they discussed? turns out police had secretly been bugging their florida home for nearly three months, recording more than 2,600 private conversations. >> a chilling twist in the story of a missing child in florida. >> one was in the bedroom and one was in the kitchen area. >> i had never heard before our since, about putting a wiretap in a marital bedroom.
>> reporter: yet prosecutors insist they'd found a smoking gun in those private comments leading to salacious headlines. marlene quoted as saying to steve, "the baby's dead and buried. it was found dead because you did it." and this damning comment attributed from steve, "i wish i hadn't harmed her. it was the cocaine." >> that's all they needed. case closed. >> reporter: how do you feel about the aisenbergs? >> i hope they convict them. if it's true i hope they convict them. period. >> we hope the people will remember accusations are just accusations. they are presumed innocent and we will meet these accusations head on. >> reporter: though defense lawyer barry cohen publicly comes out swinging, today the rest of his team admits they were privately worried. >> i mean, it sounded bad. i made some kind of comment of like, "we've got our work cut out for us" and i'll never forget he looked me straight in the eye and he's like, "they didn't do this." >> reporter: and when you learned that your house had been
bugged? >> oh well we were a little -- >> annoyed. >> couldn't believe that they bugged us. >> they were -- >> our kitchen, our bedroom, the rest of the house. it, you know, we thought it was a little ridiculous that they would do that but, you know, they did it. >> reporter: some of what the investigators say that you two said -- was pretty damning. >> all things that were never said. >> reporter: proclaiming their innocence and steadfast in the belief that their daughter's out there somewhere alive. the aisenbergs and their defense team start doing the work they say police are not. >> reporter: you felt that the police made mistakes very early on. >> absolutely. >> reporter: what kind of mistakes? >> not following up on certain leads. and targeting the aisenbergs from the minute they got there. >> reporter: p.i. kevin kalwary takes us back to the family's valrico subdivision where he initially interviewed dozens of neighbors. >> what we found is, within the recent year, there had been a number of attempted break-ins. one being just three houses away
from the aisenbergs, where there happened to be an infant living there. >> reporter: and further down the block another tip from a neighbor named pete mcdonald. pete has since died, but his wife mary meets with kevin in the same house. >> hello. >> hello. >> i remember you. >> i remember you too. >> how are you? >> good. good to see you. >> back then we had a bassett hound named murphy and he would get pete up every single night to go out. pete let him out the back door and as he's opening up the door he hears a baby crying. and he said, "well that's odd he didn't think anything of it till i call him at work the next day and tell him, "baby sabrina is missing." >> reporter: she says her husband called police to report what he heard, they took down the information, but she says no one bothered to followed up. >> this is the door that the dog went out and this is where he heard the baby crying. there's no fence between our house and the neighbor's house.
so, anybody could walk back here. >> right. >> the aisenbergs live in the cul-de-sac, which is down and around and isn't far. and you can see the cars going by how close it is, so you could walk right through there. >> it's possible to have left a getaway car there. it's possible to have come in there. um, anything's possible. >> reporter: the aisenbergs insist police weren't interested in other leads because they were too focused on them, feeding years of whispers and wild stories. there were a lot of theories circulating, over the years. theories that maybe you had had an affair, and that you weren't the father of the baby. >> nope. >> reporter: um theories that maybe you had abused the baby. >> nope. >> reporter: what did you make of all of these theories? >> we think they're ridiculous. so we kind of ignore 'em. because we know they're not true. >> i didn't have an affair. ever. >> reporter: but what about those damning statements prosecutors insist they recorded? when we come back after the sensational headlines the public finally hears the secret tapes.
>> when i first heard the tapes my position was, "they're screwing with us." >> reporter: did you start to believe that they were being framed? >> yes. >> reporter: plus, the first glimmer of hope that baby sabrina is alive. >> a gorgeous little baby pops up from illinois. baby paloma. >> reporter: next. eporter: next. but mania, such as unusual changes in your mood, activity or energy levels, can leave you on shaky ground. help take control by asking about your treatment options. vraylar is approved for the acute treatment of manic or mixed episodes of bipolar i disorder in adults. clinical studies showed that vraylar reduced overall manic symptoms. vraylar should not be used in elderly patients with dementia due to increased risk of death or stroke. call your doctor about fever, stiff muscles, or confusion, which may mean a life-threatening reaction, or uncontrollable muscle movements, which may be permanent.
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5-month-old baby sabrina. their smoking gun, the only problem? there is no smoke. >> when you look at that indictment and you read all the damning quotes even one should have sealed their fate until you actually hear the audio. >> i remember sitting in the gallery of the courtroom with other reporters and when they were played and looking at each other and wondering, i can't hear anything; can you hear anything? it sounded like chickens squawking in a hurricane. >> reporter: at first even the aisenbergs' own attorneys can't believe what they are hearing. >> my position was, "they're screwing with us. they're giving us bad tapes." >> reporter: because when you began listening to the tapes -- >> because there's no way they could be hearing what they're saying so we'd queue it up and play is and these noises, nothing. >> reporter: so you never heard anything that resembled, "the baby's dead and buried. it was found dead because you did it." you never heard anything like that? >> so this came from someone's head listening to static. >> reporter: you take a listen.
this is that supposedly incriminating statement made by marlene. and now here's what the indictment alleges she is saying. >> every time there would be a damning statement, you couldn't make it out. i've never in my life, and all the wire taps, and all the bugging cases that i have handled, heard anything as bad as this bugging attempt. >> you have to be crystal clear that what you're alleging in an indictment is actually you have it on tape you can either hear it or you can't hear it. >> reporter: did you hear those tapes? >> we listened to those tapes. >> we tried to. >> there was nothing on them. >> reporter: when hillsborough county lead detective linda burton and william blake takes the stand in court the aisenbergs incensed
attorneys pounce. >> the hardest part about dealing with them was marshaling all of the errors and inconsistencies, things they didn't follow up on, lies. there was so much to go after her with that truly it was like shooting fish in a barrel. >> reporter: eventually, the court rules that 4 of the 12 tapes it reviewed are "unintelligible" and the rest contained statements where detectives "distorted the context." no bombshell at all. >> one of the prosecutors said, "i understand there's nothing worse than somebody losing a child" and the judge says, "i can think of something worse." and the something worse is being falsely accused of being responsible. >> reporter: a judge recommends those tapes be thrown out and blasts the lead detectives for their investigation saying they acted at times with a "reckless disregard for the truth." the charges quickly dropped. >> those wire taps were a total self-inflicted wound the state
performed on its own case, it really obscured the rest of the investigation. it overshadowed the question, as to whether steve and marlene aisenberg had anything to do with their daughter's disappearance. >> oh, she's getting up. here she goes. >> i would say you know all the truth is going to come out. then finally, it did. you know? the judge threw everything out, all the tapes, everything was lies. and the government paid a lot of money. >> reporter: to your legal team? >> to our legal team. >> it's another extraordinary twist. >> reporter: outraged, their legal team fights back going after the government for millions dollars for a prosecution undertaken in "bad faith." >> for the first time in our government's history, since or before, that the government conceded that a federal prosecution was vexatiously and in bad faith. >> it was empowering because they said we did things that we never have done. >> but there was still some suspicion if you believe what the aisenbergs said happened, you have to believe that someone walked into the house in the
middle of the night picked the baby out of the crib and no one ever saw her ever again. that's difficult for a lot of people to believe. >> reporter: but marlene and steve aisenberg once again brush aside suspicion and try to regain a normal life. >> you know people have said us in the beginning, how could you not have a nervous breakdown? how could you not? and i'm, like, well, i have a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old. >> reporter: how were you able to shield them from the ordeal? >> when things would come out and- and people would be staring and talking, we just marched on. and we just lived life with the kids. >> reporter: then in 2003, a possible prayer answered when an abandoned child surfaces in illinois. >> a woman in illinois is looking through a missing child database and she sees a child, who looks a little like sabrina. >> a no one could pinpoint where she came from. she didn't come from an adoption agency. there wasn't a young mom who gave her up.
she just seemingly appeared. she looked amazingly like baby sabrina. the fuzzy dark hair, the big, brown eyes, the same skin tone. >> we were shown a picture, we were -- said that this -- there was a lead that was called in. >> reporter: how much did your hopes -- >> oh a ton. >> quite a bit. >> i mean, this is -- it's an emotional roller coaster for us. >> reporter: but the mystery baby's identity would ultimately remain a mystery. >> they said they did the dna and it wasn't her. >> reporter: their hopes are dashed. meanwhile florida police won't give up on their deep suspicions about the aisenbergs and in 2008 they think they've got another shot at arresting them. this time police record an inmate at this tampa jail talking about his supposed involvement in baby sabrina's disappearance and once again it implicates the aisenbergs. "overbeck is said to have been asked to dispose of the infant's body which he said was inside a boat he had retrieved from the aisenberg's home." >> they're desperate. we love to solve these cold cases but when you have the
answer coming from some guy who has been sitting in jail, i mean, why didn't he come forward before? >> exactly. >> eventually barry cohen and his other attorneys went and got statements from the two men who were involved. >> reporter: what did you find out from him? >> he was all over the place. he was just a junkie. we knew he was lying. >> i mean all you have to do is check public records for boat ownership and see that we never owned a boat. so i mean, the whole story was another one of these fabricated stories to try and disparage marlene and myself. >> reporter: did you know overbeck or did you know -- >> never. >> never heard the -- >> reporter: and like so many jaihouse confessions this one turns out to be bogus. after months of digging, the sheriff's office admits it's a dead end when overbeck recants his story. >> it was very surprising that the hillsborough law enforcement would put any credence in a jailhouse snitch. but you know the old saying, sometimes you got to go to hell to get your witnesses to put the devil in jail, and that's just what they did. >> reporter: still the
aisenbergs can't seem to shake suspicion. >> i know there're always going to be people that think marlene and i had something to do with it, with sabrina's disappearance. we did not. we did not. >> reporter: when we come back, a facebook message from a 20-year-old woman who says she thinks she's sabrina. will she bear a family resemblance? >> she found out another woman in california has her social security number. >> reporter: stay with us. r: stay with us. sies. for all the eyes that get itchy and watery near pugs. for all the people who sneeze around dust. there's flonase sensimist allergy relief. it relieves all your worst symptoms including nasal congestion, which most pills don't. it's more complete allergy relief. and all from a gentle mist you can barely feel. flonase sensimist helps block 6 key inflammatory substances. most pills only block one. and 6 is greater than 1. flonase sensimist.
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travels and things from when she was born. her stool, her piggy bank. >> reporter: you've got pictures in here of sabrina. >> right. we do. william, monica and sabrina. >> reporter: so you store your memories of your daughter here. >> yeah. until she comes home. >> reporter: 20 years after she last saw her youngest child, marlene aisenberg is still waiting, hoping sabrina will soon join her siblings william and monica. adults now who still come home for family game night. back in florida, a lot has changed too. the original detectives on the case have since retired. sergeant samuel bailey now heads up the investigation. he declined to discuss those early days, but says the sheriff's office remains committed to the case. >> all the speculation about what occurred in the early part of the investigation is just speculation. today, we are still currently
focused on trying to find sabrina aisenberg and bring this case to a resolution. >> the sheriff's department doesn't have any reason to come out and say, we colossally screwed up here and we're sorry for doing it." because the screw up is so bad, you have two parents that lost their child, and then on top of it, somebody goes, "you did it." and they didn't. >> reporter: have you been formally cleared as suspects or do you think you're still under suspicion? >> uh we don't know, we don't really talk to the authorities, we talk to the center for missing and exploited children. >> we have a full time case manager that is assigned to working with the aisenbergs. >> reporter: robert lowery is a vice-president at the national center for missing and exploited children, and he offers this startling fact the aisenbergs cling to. out of the 325 infant abductions they've studied dating back more than 50 years, most remain alive and well-cared for. and only 12 are still missing today. >> an infant abduction is
typically going to be by a woman of childbearing age who either has lost a child or was unable to get pregnant and the motivation is really to take the child and raise the child as their own. >> reporter: like the case of kamiyah mobley, who was snatched from a florida hospital just eight months after sabrina disappeared. >> in south carolina, we found an 18-year-old young woman. some further investigation revealed fraudulent documents had been used to establish that young woman's identity. >> she was taken by a woman who wanted a baby of her own, who has now been prosecuted for kidnapping. that gives us a glimmer of hope and it proves that miracles do happen. >> reporter: which is why the aisenbergs have worked with the center for years to release eight age progression photos of what sabrina might look like. >> when doing an age progression, we use the family members as reference points for what we think the missing child would look like. >> reporter: for the latest image the couple provided the center with teenage photos of their children monica and
william. >> when i line them up side by side, you start to see things like the shape of their eyes, very unique to this family. the length and shape of the nose, and the angle of their mouth when they smile, just the overall shape of the face. there's a lot of similarities there. i'm going to just do an overall trace of the face. i'm going to line up the facial features and then i'm going to start to add in those features that i'm actually going to be borrowing from the siblings' faces. >> sabrina and monica's baby pictures were identical. they were so hard to tell apart that we really believe that the three of our kids are going to look so much alike. and a young girl sitting at home watching tv is going to see william and monica and go i look like those kids. >> reporter: but miracle homecomings aren't always perfect. listen to kamiyah talk about the woman who stole her. >> i still do call her mom. she will always be mom. >> she wasn't sure that she wanted to know her parents.
i could never imagine that. like to me it's like when sabrina's found, she's going to want to come home. and all of a sudden, i'm listening to the news say, this young woman might not want to meet her parents. >> reporter: even if that happens to her marlene says she's ready for a miracle and is it about to happen thanks to modern technology? just months ago, a startling facebook message from a woman 3,000 miles away sparks new hope. >> i wake up and look at my phone. there was a note from a young lady who believes that she may be sabrina. my heart's racing. >> she basically was like, "i don't want to give false hope," but she hasn't felt like she belonged where she was. >> reporter: why does she think she could sabrina? >> she's about the same age, 20 years old. >> she has no pictures, no baby pictures from the time she was
five to nine months. her pictures start out after that. >> her grandparents tried to adopt, and it took about four years. >> she doesn't necessarily believe that . >> she had to check other social security number, and she found out another woman in california has her social security number. >> her social security number. >> reporter: so she has reason to believe that something -- >> that is -- >> correct. >> reporter: is amiss. >> is not -- is amiss. >> correct. >> reporter: and she sent along pictures of herself, which marlene declines to share to protect the young woman's privacy. >> so i ran around the house and grabbed pictures of monica, of sabrina, of will, and started looking at their ones that were matching what she sent me. >> i think there's some resemblances that you could see, but it's so hard to know. >> reporter: and it's not just her. another 20-year-old woman has now surfaced saying she too could be sabrina. how much do you allow yourself to hope? >> oh we hope every day. i mean hope is what keeps us going and moving forward.
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happened to baby sabrina. but parents steve and marlene asinberg are holding out for a happy ending. >> there's always that suspicion that maybe she's still alive and maybe she's still out there. i think it's still just as much a mystery today as it was back in 1997. >> do you have regrets when you look back? what would you have done differently? >> i -- i wouldn't have done anything differently because i -- we didn't do anything wrong. i mean leaving our garage door open was not done on purpose. >> are you angry? what do you feel when you look back over what you've gone through. >> probably more frustration over anything that -- you know a lot of time was wasted when they could've been looking for our daughter. >> reporter: all it takes is one phone call or one piece of information to solve this case. >> reporter: tonight, they anxiously await that phone call, and though they haven't gone public, both young women who reached out suspecting they
could be sabrina have had their dna collected for testing. the results may take an excruciatingly long three to six months. >> i don't understand it. it's just waiting and more waiting here we're so hopeful. we just want to know. >> the fact is that, while we want to believe dna can be done in minutes, that's just not the way dna works. it takes a lot longer than that. but either it's going to be their child or not. >> i hope it's one of these two girls, but if it's not, our hope is that other people that are thinking they're not in the right space and not in the right place will reach out to us so we can get dna for them taken because. it's time. >> what do you most want people to know about marlene and steven aisenberg? >> that we love our family, and that we -- >> and we love each other. >> and love each other and we want our daughter to come home
to make our family whole again. >> we have been following your comments about sabrina on our social media pages and we're curious what you think after watching tonight's show. keep posting with the #abc2020, and if you think you have seen sabrina, you can call the national center for missing and exploited children at 1-800-the-lost. that's our program. i'm elizabeth vargas. thank you for watching. for all of us here at abc and "20/20," have a great night and a great weekend. great weekend.
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