Many searches, few clues in KC baby's disappearance

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 | 4:21 p.m. CDT
A firefighter searches the area after rappelling down a steep embankment for missing 10-month-old Lisa Irwin in Kansas City on Oct. 4. Lisa Irwin's mother reported last seeing the baby when she put her into her crib around 10:30 p.m. Monday. The father called police around 4 a.m. Tuesday when he returned home from his job at an electrical company and couldn't find the baby.

KANSAS CITY — Authorities searching for a missing baby in Kansas City have marched through woods, rappelled down cliffs and combed through landfills. They've interrogated her parents for hours and called in firefighters to search a 36-foot well that seemed like a possible hiding place for a tiny body.

But after receiving more than 300 tips and chasing down many others, police still have no idea what happened to Lisa Irwin, a fair-haired, big-eyed baby, whose first birthday is now only a month away.

Police Wednesday were scouring a new wooded area with all-terrain vehicles and search dogs just east of the family's home, though they said the efforts weren't prompted by a tip. On Tuesday, police searched a nearby abandoned home and cistern, while more than 30 detectives pursued additional leads.

In the week since Lisa's parents reported her missing, investigators also have searched their home with metal detectors and re-enacted a possible abduction — all while camera crews film from the street.

Lisa's mother, Deborah Bradley, said she checked on her daughter late Oct. 3, but the baby was gone early the next morning when her father, Jeremy Irwin, returned home from a late shift at work. The couple told police they frantically searched their home but found only that the house lights were on and a window was open.

Kansas City police spokesman Capt. Steve Young has said police are pursuing all leads and taking a no-holds barred approach to the investigation.

"I challenge you to name something, and I can assure you we have done it twice," Young said early in the investigation. But he has also said all along that he and other police can't comment on the investigation.

Lisa's parents appeared on television several times during the first week of the investigation, but have since retreated from the media, saying they want to focus all their attention on finding Lisa. They declined to comment Tuesday. A relative said family members had watched part of the well search on television.

Bill Stanton, a private security consultant, said Wednesday that a "high-asset" family he knows hired him to investigate the baby's disappearance. Stanton, of New York, said he would be working on the case for an undetermined amount of time and that he was "hopeful this child is safe and alive." He would not identify who hired him, but said it was not the child's family.

A spokesman for the baby's family said Stanton would be handling media questions, but did not comment on Stanton's role, if any, in the investigation.

Young said Stanton would not have access to investigative files. "He will have access to anything the general public has access to," Young said.

John Hamilton, a former Kansas City police officer who now teaches criminal justice at Park University in Parkville, said officers are as determined as anyone to find the child.

"If there is any pressure, it's to find the (baby) safe and bring her home," Hamilton said. "Another thing people don't realize, and this happens in a majority of big cases, is the prosecutor's office and police are working hand-in-hand on this."

Kansas City television stations have been subpoenaed to submit their interview footage, according to a previous Associated Press report. Jim Roberts, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office, said the subpoenas were needed to prevent broadcasters from destroying video that they might otherwise discard because it could be needed later. The subpoenas were issued by a sitting grand jury, not one called specifically for this case.

As the search entered its second week on Wednesday, Young said police would carry on.

"It's fair to assume a small amount of frustration on behalf of everybody," he said. "But it doesn't change the direction at all. ... Tomorrow morning, I'm sure they'll get everybody back in the (command post) and hand out leads and keep people coming and going."

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