Bethesda parents charged in child's disappearance

Indictment accuses couple of lying to detectives

September 10, 1999|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

A Montgomery County couple whose infant daughter has been missing for nearly two years were arrested in Bethesda yesterday and charged in a federal indictment with lying to detectives who have traveled the globe trying to find Sabrina Aisenberg, who was reported missing from her crib in a Tampa, Fla., suburb on Nov. 27, 1997.

The child's mother, Marlene J. Aisenberg, 35, of the 6400 block of Kirby Road in Bethesda, was arrested at the couple's home about noon yesterday after the FBI broke down the door. Mrs. Aisenberg, investigators said, had locked herself inside and refused to open the door.

Steven B. Aisenberg, also 35, was arrested shortly after noon while on his job at M/I Homes in the 18000 block of Wickham Road in Olney.

Arraigned in federal court in Greenbelt, each was charged with various counts of conspiracy and making false statements to authorities. Investigators have been looking for Sabrina since the Aisenbergs reported the then 5-month-old missing from their former home in Brandon, just outside of Tampa. The couple moved to Maryland from Florida in the spring with their two other children, William, 9, and Monica, 5.

The indictment charges that the Aisenbergs more than once discussed the fact that Sabrina was dead and what story they would tell police about her disappearance.

Although the case officially remains an unsolved missing-person report -- and the Aisenbergs have not been charged with homicide or kidnapping in Sabrina's disappearance -- the indictment details a conversation in which Mrs. Aisenberg blames Mr. Aisenberg for the baby's death.

"The baby's dead and buried. It was found dead because you did it," Mrs. Aisenberg is reported to have said a month after Sabrina was listed as missing. "The baby's dead no matter what you say -- you just did it."

The document says that Mr. Aisenberg 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."

Federal agents would not disclose the source of the parents' conversation.

Police -- who have followed more than 2,000 leads in every state but Nebraska and traveled to Europe and the Middle East to conduct interviews -- say they still do not know what has happened to Sabrina.

Grand jurors allege that the Aisenbergs not only lied to mislead detectives about the baby's disappearance, but provided police with a fake picture they claimed was Sabrina and solicited money for a Sabrina bank account used to pay off credit card debt. Later, the indictment alleges, they wrongly blamed a Michigan man for the abduction.

If convicted, Steven and Marlene Aisenberg would face a maximum of 25 and 30 years in prison respectively.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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