The Unusual Abduction Case of Sabrina Aisenberg

  • Sabrina Aisenberg was kidnapped on 24, November 1997. Valrico, Florida.
  • Steve and Marlene, the parents of Sabrina, was the main suspects.
  • Steve and Marlene were taken to court but was found not guilty.
  • After being found not guilty they sued for damages and received between $1.3-1,5 million.
  • No Body or other traces of Sabrina was ever found not even the blanket taken with her.


Sabrina Aisenberg – Youtube

On the night of the 24th of November, at 12:00 am Marlene went to check on Sabrina and she was fast asleep. Marlene said she was awoken by a strange noise that came from her living room. When she went to inspect she heard that her fish tank is making weird sounds. Marlene said she thought that the fish tank filter was broken. While she was busy at the fish tank, she notices that the door to the laundry room was open and from there you have a direct line of sight to the garage door that was also open. Marlene screams and this wakes Steve.

It would have been easy to come into their house unnoticed. Sabrina’s bedroom was the first bedroom in the house so whoever took her did not have to disturb anyone else.

Unusual behavior from the parents

Marlene phoned 911 at 6:42 am and handed the phone to Steve who continued with the conversation, while she was on the other phone talking to her mother. The 911 operator asked Steve if they looked in the house for Sabrina and he said no, he then told William to search the house.

From the 911, call, police thought the behavior of Steve and Marlene were off. Everything Marlene and Steve did raise questions. It is said they did not behave like normal grieving parents. Now there is no particular way to act when you just found out that your child is missing. There is, however, normal responses parents have, and in this situation, Steve and Marlene did not show any of them.

When Steve told William his eight-year-old son to look for Sabrina, he said to look everywhere in case she got out of her baby crib. There is no way that Sabrina could just climb out of her crib, she was only five months old. Some people believed that Steve acted with no emotion. Usually when parents behave like that it is because they are involved in the abduction. Or they don’t care what happens to their children?

I know that if that happened to me, I would freak out. After the 911 call, Steve went to his neighbor Scott Middleton. Scott is a former Tampa police officer. Maybe Steve thought he could pick Scott’s brain about the crime scene. Scott remarked that when he went over to the house, he noticed Marlene and Steve showed no emotion; they were not even crying. He said it did not look like something bad had happened. It makes you wonder if they did not stage the crime scene to get some attention? Is it a bit far-fetched? Why would they behave so emotionless? It could be argued that they were in shock.

Steve and Marlene Aisenberg is very concerned about their daughter’s blanket

When the story about Sabrina broke the parents made quite a big deal about the blanket. It was a handmade blue and yellow blanket with printed animals and yellow piping. Steve and Marlene even posted a photo of it next to the photo of Sabrina.

One time Steve and Marlene were on television pleading for Sabrina’s safe return, they describe the blanket to the last detail. They apparently said that if they could just get the blanket back, they would be happy. If that is true, that tells me they do not want Sabrina back or do not care what happened to her. What I do not get is if they had arranged the abduction why did the police not find her. Steve declared her missing the same day, so all the airports, buses and train stations were notified.

It might be possible that someone got her out of the country before the search began, but I don’t think that it is likely.

The dog did not bark, and there is very little evidence to go on

People immediately thought that Steve and Marlene killed Sabrina. The first thing the police thought was suspicious is that none of

Steve and Marlene – Youtube

the other family members heard anything. And the family dog did not even bark or move around in the house. Also, there were no signs of a break in.

Their neighbor Scott, told the police that Brownie barks a lot. The family said that the dog did not bark at all. First thought I got is that the person or persons that entered the house must know the dog and the house layout.

The police investigators found a blonde hair near the crib. They also found a shoe print on the skirt of the crib. It is a strange place to find a foot print. It is like someone kicked the crib. The other explanation could be that they used it to prop themselves up. That just raised more questions than answers.

One of Steve and Marlene’s neighbors said that his dog barked at 1:00 am that morning. He remembered when he took his dog out for a walk, he heard a baby cry in the distance. The neighbor said the neighbors that lived closest to him had no children at the time. It could be that he heard Sabrina’s cries when she was abducted.

I think if someone is going to kidnap a child in the middle of the night the last thing that they would do is to wake them up. Surely if Sabrina would have cried someone in the house would have woken up.

Once the police searched the house and talked to the neighbors, they interrogate Steve and Marlene. Usually, the police have to speak to the family members first to eliminate them as suspects. The police did find it strange that their house was in disarray and chaos. It is fair to assume with three young children a messy house is to be expected.

Marlene told the first police officer on scene that the fish tank woke her up. Just a few hours later she told another police investigator that she was awoken by the television “wake up” function. So why would she lie and tell two different stories? If you are telling the truth your answers would always be consistant.

While the police were on the scene the television crew’s were filming. Then something happened. There was an unmarked police car in the driveway, the policeman came out of the house and walked to the car with Steve and Marlene behind him. He showed no emotion, and went to the driver side. Marlene and Steve split up to get into oposite sides of the car. When they split up Steve and Marlene simultaneously started to smile. Is this coincidence?

So generally I would say people read too much into that. But they are already suspects in Sabrina’s abduction, and while that smile could have meant anything at that moment, it does seem odd that they would smile just after discovering their child is missing. On the subject of smiling, there was apparently another time that they smiled on television while they were pleading for Sabrina. People said that Marlene’s tears seemed like she was faking it and Steve was emotionless.

A few years before the abduction there was a woman called Susan Smith. Susan also claimed that her children were abducted and pleaded on television for her children’s safe return. It turns out that Susan killed her children. Apparently, if you put the two television broadcasts side by side Susan and Marlene’s behaviors were more or less the same. That might be why people thought that Marlene and Steve were involved in the kidnapping.

The Police bug the Aisenberg household

The police asked Marlene and Steve’s permission to tap their phones in case the kidnappers called with a ransom demand, police also put other listening devices in their house for three weeks. The Police never thought it was a kidnapping.

According to the information the police gathered from the tapes, they say that Marlene and Steve stated that Sabrina was dead. Steve and Marlene further cooperate with the police and took polygraph tests. According to sources, someone in the police department leaked information. Some of the answers she gave tested as deceptive, Steve and Marlene claimed they had passed the test.

September 1999, two years after the abduction, Steve and Marlene were indicted on conspiracy and other additional charges. A judge cleared both Steve and Marlene of all charges in February of 2001. The judge stated the police action of wiretapping their house was wrong and this showed that the police was not treating it as an abduction case.

Because the police lied about the purpose of the listening devices, the lead investigator in the case was demoted in July 2001.

The police had their suspicions but could never find any evidence that Steve and Marlene had something to do with the kidnapping and suspected murder of Sabrina.

The Aisenbergs win the court battle and seek restitution

Steve and Marlene never thought they needed a lawyer but, Steve’s brother Dave a lawyer advised them to consult with an attorney. They did hire a lawyer, Barry Cowen(He has a YouTube channel). After that they never appeared without him. On the advice of Barry, Marlene and Steve stopped cooperating with the police. And since they have been cleared of all charges Barry filed motions that the government pay Steve and Marlene’s legal fees. The motion was filed on August 2001. Steve and Marlene were awarded $2.7 to $2.9 million in damages. The amount was later reduced to $1.3 to $1.5 million.

Steve and Marlene were not happy with the reduction. They decided to appeal the reduction at the United States Supreme Court. They also sued for conspiring to deprive them of their civil rights and fabricating evidence to implicate them. The police investigation was about finding the body of Sabrina, they never treated the case as an abduction or missing child case. At the time of the abduction, Steve worked as a real estate agent. At that stage, he had just sold a new house. The police went to that house and dug up the yard. With that action, the police said they believe that Marlene or Steve or both murdered Sabrina.

Naturally, it would make Steve and Marlene unhappy. I do have to say that if my child were missing, I would not want the police to look for a body immediately. The evidence collected from the house did not make sense to the police nor did it seem like a break-in. The police acted upon the evidence they had.

A judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2004. Steve and Marlene thought it best to put the dispute behind them. They would cooperate with the police again for the sake of Sabrina. No matter what, Marlene and Steve thought about the police investigation; The police followed up on thousands of leads, most of them false.

It was difficult for the police to look for Sabrina. She was so small, she had nothing distinctive about her, and if she was taken, there is a possibility that her hair could have been dyed.

Steve and Marlene moved to Maryland and also had to deal with money problems. According to sources, it came to the attention of some that there was a fund to find Sabrina. Steve and Marlene supposedly used some of the money to pay off their debts.  While they were constantly in the spot light, appearing on television shows all leads were exhausted and the case went cold.

We take a look at how the case impacted the life of Colonel. Burton the first officer on scene

Here is a view from one of the investigators that worked on the case. Colonel J.R. Burton was the first one on the scene that morning. He was on the road when the call went out, and he did not think he will work on this case for more than 20 years.

Burton was a newly married man. He would leave on trips to follow up leads that lasted for days. He admitted that this case took over his life. When he was not working in the office in Tampa Bay, he was at home working on finding Sabrina, even in his sleep.

He would wake up 3:00 am in the morning and write down leads, he did not want to miss anything. This case touched him so much that he has a Polaroid of Sabrina since it began. After 20 years he still carried the faded photo with him. He said that he would never forget Sabrina.

Colonel Burton is now second in command at Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Tampa Bay. Every morning when he walks into the office, he is reminded of Sabrina as her photo is on the wall of Tampa missing children. He said that the day Sabrina’s case is closed, he would finally rest and feel satisfied.

The case is bothersome and will it ever be solved?

From what I can understand children that go missing mostly occur in public places. If Sabrina was taken by someone, who wanted to have a baby but could not conceive. Then this person or persons would have stalked the family for months to get a sense of their routines and even once or twice had to break into their house to get a layout of the house.

It would have been difficult to raise the baby in America without someone noticing irregularities. There must be some paper trail to receive money. And with technology today someone, somewhere should have picked up at least some information of Sabrina. It leads me to believe that she might be dead as that can explain how no one can find any trace of her for more than 20 years.

Wherever Sabrina is and whatever happened to her is still a mystery. And we might never know what happened to her but, I do hope for the sake of Sabrina that she is safe and have another loving family. Steve and Marlene said that they will never stop looking for Sabrina and that she will always be a member of the family. They still have photos of her on the wall and throughout the house.



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