Details of Disappearance Sabrina disappeared from her family's residence in Valrico, Florida between 12:00 a.m. and 6:42 a.m. on November 24, 1997. Her mother, Marlene Aisenberg, told authorities that she checked on Sabrina at approximately 12:00 a.m. and the infant was asleep in her crib. Marlene stated that when she returned to her daughter's room at 6:42 a.m., Sabrina had disappeared. A handmade blue and yellow blanket with imprinted animal images and yellow piping was also missing from her crib. A photo of the blanket is posted with this case summary. Sabrina has never been seen again.
The garage door and one of the doors to the Aisenbergs' residence had been unlocked during the morning of Sabrina's disappearance. Investigators found an unidentified blonde hair and a shoe print near the baby's crib, as well as seven unidentified fingerprints inside the house. Neighbors told authorities there had been several incidents involving possible attempted break-ins in the area in homes with small children. One of the Aisenbergs' neighbors reported that his dog barked at approximately 1:00 a.m. on the morning Sabrina vanished. After letting the dog outside, the man believed he heard a baby crying somewhere in the distance. He stated that none of his closest neighbors had small children at the time. It is not known if the cries the witness thought he overheard were from Sabrina.
Sabrina's parents say she strongly resembled her older sister Monica at the time she disappeared. A photograph of Monica at age four is posted with this case summary; Sabrina may still look like her. Sabrina's hair was brown at the time of her disappearance but may have lightened to blonde as she grew older.
Authorities questioned why no one inside the Aisenberg residence awoke if an intruder indeed abducted Sabrina. The family owned a dog and they stated the pet never barked during the night Sabrina disappeared. Investigators suspected Marlene and her husband, Steve, were connected to their daughter's case. Photos of both the child's parents are posted with this case summary. Authorities obtained permission to place listening devices inside the family's home three weeks after Sabrina disappeared. According to the police transcripts of the Aisenbergs' conversations, Marlene and Steve both said that Sabrina was dead during the tapings.
Sabrina's parents were indicted on conspiracy and additional charges in September 1999, nearly two years after their daughter vanished. In February 2001, a judge found that investigators lied when seeking permission to place the wiretaps in the Aisenbergs' residence. Steve and Marlene were cleared of all charges against them. The judge also stated that there was nothing on the tapes which contained the evidence mentioned in the transcripts of the Aisenbergs' conversations. The lead prosecutor in the Aisenbergs' case was demoted in July 2001.
Steve and Marlene's attorneys filed motions seeking for the government to repay their clients' legal fees in August 2001, given that the charges had been dropped. They received $2.7 to $2.9 million in damages. The amount was later reduced to $1.3 to $1.5 million. Steve and Marlene sued again, seeking further damages and accusing their prosecutors of conspiring to deprive them of their civil rights, fabricating evidence, and lying about it. In 2004, a judge dismissed this suit, saying the law gives prosecutors an immunity from such lawsuits about their official actions. A similar lawsuit against the sheriff's office was, in 2006, dropped by the Aisenbergs, as they decided it was "materially impeding" the investigation into their daughter's disappearance.
Steve, Marlene, and their attorney met with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office detectives in August 2005 to discuss Sabrina's case. Sabrina's parents were subjected to extensive questioning, and they took polygraph tests given by their lawyer and the sheriff's office. The sheriff's office has not released the results of the tests, but Steve and Marlene claim they both passed. They have not been ruled out as suspects in Sabrina's disappearance, but have cooperated with the police as authorities began the investigation anew.
In April 2003, the possibility was raised that Sabrina may be "Paloma Unknown," an infant who was abandoned in May of 1998. A photograph of the child at age two is posted with this case summary. Paloma, as an infant, was taken across the Mexican border into Texas by a teenage female claiming to be her mother. The teenager gave Paloma to Molly Garza, a Spanish woman who may have been working in the textile industry. Garza was being deported to Spain and could not take the child, so she gave Paloma to a friend who was a registered nurse at a migrant clinic. Garza signed her name allowing the nurse to give Paloma up for adoption. Such off-the-book adoptions are not uncommon around the Mexican border. The nurse gave Paloma to her sister, who raised her with her husband in Pontiac, Illinois. They tried to adopt her, but without a birth certificate or any information on Paloma's background they were not allowed to. Instead they were appointed as her guardians. Several agencies, including the Texas Rangers and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, have tried to determine information on Paloma's parentage but come up with nothing. A woman in Michigan saw Sabrina's missing-child poster in the spring of 2003 and noticed the resemblance between Paloma and the missing baby's pictures. She called Sabrina's parents, who agreed that Paloma did resemble their daughter. A DNA sample was collected from Paloma and compared to a sample police had of Sabrina's. It did not match. Paloma remains unidentified.
Steve and Marlene moved to Maryland with their two older children after Sabrina's disappearance. They continue to maintain their innocence in Sabrina's disappearance and stated they believe that their daughter is alive and living with another family somewhere in the United States. Many investigators still think Sabrina was the victim of foul play. Her case remains unsolved.
- Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
Updated 10 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated November 14, 2015; age-progression updated.