After five-month-old Sabrina Aisenberg vanished right out of her crib in 1997, police suspected her parents Steve and Marlene — then uncovered disturbing evidence when they bugged their home.
A missing child is a parent’s worst nightmare. And Marlene and Steve Aisenberg appeared to go through that agony after their 5-month-old daughter, Sabrina Aisenberg, disappeared from their Florida home in the dead of night.
But the tangled events that followed in the Aisenberg case are baffling.
On Nov. 23, 1997, Sabrina Aisenberg went missing from her crib and was never to be seen again. The investigation that followed, however, led authorities to believe that the girl’s parents might likely be involved in the disappearance and the possible murder of young Sabrina. And to this day, more questions than answers remain.
The Disappearance Of Sabrina Aisenberg
It seemed like a normal night for the Aisenbergs on Nov. 23, 1997. All three children — William, 8, Monica, 4, and Sabrina, 5 months — were put to bed by their parents Marlene and Steve Aisenberg. They lived in a four-bedroom home located in Valrico, Florida, a Hillsborough County neighborhood right outside of Tampa.
However, the next morning was anything but normal. Marlene woke her son up first before realizing that the garage door was open. This alarmed Marlene, who immediately went to check on Sabrina in her crib. When she got to her youngest daughter’s bedroom, Sabrina was nowhere to be found.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Marlene called 911 at 6:42 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 24, 1997. “I need the police,” she told the operator on the other end. “My baby has been kidnapped.”
The Hillsborough County police arrived at the home not long after the call. At the time, it didn’t appear to be a break-in. The only thing missing from the home was young Sabrina and her yellow blanket.
But when the authorities started searching the home, they thought it was odd that there were fewer photos of Sabrina than there were of the other two children. They also thought the couple’s demeanor was off — and the stories they told didn’t always match up.
An even bigger alarm for the authorities was the video they saw of Sabrina right before she disappeared. It looked as though the young child had bruises on her face and some of her hair was missing.
It didn’t take long for the Aisenbergs to realize authorities were zeroing in on them as possible suspects in the disappearance. The couple then hired Barry Cohen, a Tampa criminal defense lawyer to help them.
Steve And Marlene Aisenberg Raise Suspicion
Two years after Sabrina Aisenberg’s disappearance, the parents were charged. But not for any connection to their daughter’s whereabouts. Instead, they were charged with making false statements to authorities.
According to People, the authorities received permission from the court to monitor the Aisenbergs by wiretapping parts of their home. During that time, authorities listened in on the couple for several months after Sabrina went missing, recording around 2,600 conversations.
Once the indictment came down in 1999, the prosecution said there were many incriminating remarks made by the Aisenbergs — especially one that reportedly came from Steve, who allegedly admitted to killing his daughter while on cocaine.
The most damning parts of the indictment were these fragments of the couple’s conversations secretly recorded by the investigators.
It noted that Marlene was heard telling Steven, “The baby’s dead and buried!” on Dec. 23, 1997.
Marlene reportedly went on to say, “It was found dead because you did it. The baby’s dead no matter what you say — you just did it!”
Steve then responded by referencing a cryptic “family pact” and promising not to change his story when speaking with authorities. “We will do what we have to do,” he reportedly said.
Then on Jan. 21. 1998, perhaps most chillingly, Steven was recorded apparently saying, “I wish I hadn’t harmed her.”
The following month, Stephen is heard again talking to Marlene asking: “They don’t know the truth, right?”
Marlene responds with “Yeah” and goes on by saying: “So, so, in a way, you know, that means nobody knows what we did, still.”
It sounds damning — but when the defense hired former FBI forensic audio expert Bruce Koenig to listen to the tapes, he wasn’t so sure he heard the same statements that prosecutors were zeroing in on.
In February 2001, the prosecution dropped the charges well before the trial even started. This was right after a federal judge determined some of the recordings were too hard to hear and fully understand. The judge also believed some fragmented recordings might have been taken out of context by the authorities.
An appeals court later ordered the federal government to pay the Aisenbergs’ defense fees which totaled about $1.5 million.
Where Are Steve And Marlene Aisenberg Today?
The Aisenbergs moved out of Florida in 1999 with their son William and daughter Monica and currently live in Maryland.
In 2018, in yet another baffling turn in the Aisenberg case, two women that would be around the same age as Sabrina came forward claiming to be the Aisenbergs’ missing daughter. But when they took the DNA tests, the results showed neither was a match.
The couple still has not given up hope for Sabrina’s safe return to them. “I still believe Sabrina is out there,” Steve had said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children continues to update an age-enhanced photo of Sabrina to help show what she may currently look like.
Hillsborough sheriff’s officials also say the case remains open — and they are still searching for Sabrina. People reported that one of the officers on the case said, “We are still currently focused on trying to find Sabrina Aisenberg and bring this case to a resolution.”
After learning about Sabrina Aisenberg’s disappearance, read about the bizarre trail of clues in Brianna Maitland’s vanishing. Then, learn how Jordan Turpin escaped her parents’ “house of horrors.”