The disappearance of baby Lisa Irwin is a crime that still baffles Kansas City five years later.
The 10-month-old was last seen in her crib on Oct. 3, 2011. She simply vanished. Lisa’s parents believe their daughter is alive.
“There’s not a doubt in my mind, and I’m her mom. I obviously I have my mother’s intuition, and I have never once felt for a second that she has been hurt or gone," Lisa’s mother, Deborah Bradley, said.
Her parents believe she was kidnapped and then sold.
“This was not a one-person deal,” Lisa’s father, Jeremy Irwin, said.
Police originally zeroed in on Bradley as a possible suspect. The parents say they hold no grudges.
Bradley drank with a neighbor the night Lisa went missing. She eventually told investigators that she didn’t remember if she checked on her daughter before she went to bed about 10:40 p.m. The last check may have been 6:40 p.m.
Bradley said she passed a lie detector test. However, police originally told her she failed as a tactic to force a confession. Bradley said she understands and respects why police did that.
“Absolutely! Some of the stuff you see on the news with parents and their children … just horrid things! I can completely understand. It's just after some point in time you got to look elsewhere,” Bradley said.
Oct. 3, 2011
Jeremy Irwin called 911 to report his daughter missing.
He returned home from work at 4 a.m. The front door was unlocked. Lisa was missing from her crib.
The family reported their three cell phones were also missing, and nothing else was taken.
Police issued an Amber Alert and quickly released pictures of Lisa with her big blue eyes.
Investigators combed fields near the Irwin home, drained wells, and police even searched neighbors’ homes looking for Lisa.
The investigation became the intense focus of national media.
Information dripped out day-by-day. The missing cell phones were pinged close to the Irwin home and were accessed throughout the night Lisa went missing.
A cadaver dog reportedly smelled something in the parent’s bedroom. And burnt baby clothes were found inside a neighborhood dumpster.
One tip that became public involved a handyman, John “Jersey Joe” Tanko, who had a criminal record and worked in the neighborhood. He dated Megan Wright, who publicly reported her cell phone was called by one of those missing cell phones.
Wright said many other people had access to her cell phone, and she would not make or receive that call.
Police never named Tanko a suspect and said he cooperated with investigators who were satisfied with his answers.
Original attorney speaks out
Cyndy Short represented the family in the early days of the investigation.
She is the attorney the family still keeps in contact with today. She calls the parents credible and heartbroken.
“My gut tells me without any doubt that somebody unknown to the family came into this home was in and out of the home very quickly,” Short said.
Short conducted her own investigation with staff from her office.
They spoke to people in the neighborhood who say they saw a man and an under-dressed baby the night Lisa went missing.
“Our prayer is once the baby left this area … she ended up somewhere safe and warm. Statistically, that's probably not the outcome, but it's the one we pray for,” Short said.
Stranger Abductions are incredibly rare.
There are only a handful of cases of newborn babies being kidnapped. Those are generally violent attacks involving infants being cut out of the womb.
“Why would this child at this age be disappearing now?” former FBI agent Michael Tabman questions.
Tabman said Lisa’s age probably troubled investigators. Kidnappings generally involve middle school-aged girls.
Tabman points out high profile examples like 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard, 12-year-old Poly Klass and 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart.
“I do not believe this was a stranger abduction,” Tabman said.
Where the investigation stands today
Police say this is still an active investigation and have received 573 tips regarding Lisa’s disappearance.
Lisa’s parents hope the anniversary of her disappearance raises awareness and prompts more tips. They point to the $100,000 reward that’s still available in the case.
“Think of her, think of how much she deserves to be with the people who love her the most,” Lisa’s mother said.
“Or think of yourself and take the money and leave town. Whatever it's going to take,” adds Lisa’s father.
If you have any information call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS.
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