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Parents Discussed Daughter’s Death

September 10, 1999

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ The parents said a kidnapper snatched their 5-month-old baby as they slept. Talk between the parents, however, shed a different light on what happened, according to a prosecutor: ``The baby is in fact dead. They knew that and had some hand in it.″

Although the Nov. 24, 1997, disappearance of baby Sabrina officially remains an unsolved missing-person report, a seven-count federal indictment accuses Steven and Marlene Aisenberg of conspiracy, concocting stories about a kidnapping and lying to investigators to mislead them.

The Aisenbergs weren’t charged with murder or kidnapping.

The couple, who moved to Bethesda, Md., last spring were arrested there Thursday and released under $25,000 bond apiece.

During an appearance in federal court in Greenbelt, Md., Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachelle DesVaux Bedke said: ``The baby is in fact dead. They knew that and had some hand in it.″

Bedke also said that Aisenberg was heard telling his wife: ``I wish I hadn’t harmed her. It was the cocaine.″

At a news conference in Tampa, federal agents would not disclose the source of the parents’ conversation and refused to say whether it was obtained on a wiretap.

The indictment detailed a conversation in which Mrs. Aisenberg allegedly blamed her husband for Sabrina’s death.

According to the indictment, Mrs. Aisenberg told her husband less than a month after the baby’s disappearance: ``The baby’s dead and buried. It was found dead because you did it. The baby’s dead no matter what you say _ you just did it.″

Aisenberg allegedly replied: ``Honey, there was nothing I could do about it. We need to discuss the way that we can beat the charge. I would never break from the family pact and our story even if the police were to hold me down. We will do what we have to do.″

The indictment also quotes Aisenberg as telling his wife: ``I wish I hadn’t harmed her.″

Mrs. Aisenberg replied: ``I just can’t take the rap for this,″ the indictment states.

Authorities said they still do not know what has happened to Sabrina since her mother reported the cherub-faced, dark-haired baby missing from their secluded, suburban Brandon home.

``The information in the indictment would indicate the child is not alive,″ said Hillsborough County Sheriff Cal Henderson, whose office followed 2,000 leads and conducted 6,000 interviews in 49 states and six countries. ``But they’ve lied to us in the past. We can’t say. We just don’t know.″

The Aisenbergs’ attorney, Barry Cohen, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Grand jurors said the parents lied to mislead people about the baby’s disappearance, provided false information to the media, passed off a picture of another child as Sabrina, threw out a lead in the case they knew to be staged, solicited money for a Sabrina bank account then used it to pay credit cards and schemed about trying to wrongly blame a Michigan man for an abduction.

Aisenberg, who turns 36 on Tuesday, is charged in five counts; Mrs. Aisenberg, 36, is charged in six counts. If convicted he would face a maximum of 25 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine and she would face a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine.

The Aisenbergs have two other children William, 9, and Monica, 6.

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