Search for missing Mo. girl generates frustration

October 6, 2011 - 2:15 AM
Amber Alert Kansas City

This photo provided Oct. 4, 2011, by the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, shows Lisa Irwin. Kansas City police have issued an Amber Alert for the 10-month-old girl who apparently was abducted from her bedroom overnight. Lisa has blue eyes and blond hair. She is 30 inches tall and weighs between 26 and 30 pounds. (AP Photo, Kansas City Police Department)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — FBI search dogs scoured the Kansas City home where a 10-month-old girl was last seen in her crib. Law officers canvassed nearby woods, walking shoulder-to-shoulder looking for clues. Her parents tearfully begged for whoever took their daughter to leave her somewhere, anywhere, safe.

But none of it has produced solid leads for frustrated investigators, who are pushing into their third full day of searching for Lisa Irwin. About 300 law officers have used helicopters, all-terrain vehicles and door-to-door interviews to look for the baby since she disappeared sometime late Monday or early Tuesday.

Police weren't releasing details about their plans for Thursday, if they would keep the investigation close or expand the search. Capt. Steve Young said police would be working overnight and early Thursday "same as before."

"We're going to keep working as long as calls come in and we think there's absolutely anything we can do," Young said late Wednesday.

The child's parents are not suspects and spoke to the media for the first time Wednesday, pleading for their daughter's safe return and asking the public to call police with any information.

"Please drop her off anywhere," her father, Jeremy Irwin, calmly said during a brief news conference at a makeshift police command center near their home. "We don't care. Somewhere safe so she can come home."

Clutching a purple stuffed Barney doll that presumably belonged to her daughter, Deborah Bradley tearfully added: "We just want our baby back."

Young said investigators have no new leads and no named suspects, and noted that the parents have been cooperative since the beginning.

"With that being said, everything is still on the table," Young said shortly after the news conference. "If we had more to go on, we could start eliminating some things, but we frankly don't have anything to justify elimination."

The child was last seen around 10:30 p.m. Monday when her mother checked on her in her crib. Her father discovered the baby missing about five hours later, when he got home from a late-night shift at work.

Police have said one possibility they were investigating was whether someone entered the home through a front window and snatched the baby, but they haven't pointed to any sign of forced entry.

St. Joseph police obtained surveillance video from a highway truck stop north of Kansas City after someone reported seeing a "suspicious" car with a couple traveling with a baby who may have resembled Lisa Irwin, Cmdr. Jim Connors said Wednesday.

Connors said Kansas City police have been notified and would be given the video, but acknowledged that the report was "probably one of many."

"Everyone's looking for a cute little baby," he said.

Lisa has blue eyes and blonde hair, is 30 inches tall and weighs around 28 pounds. She was last seen wearing purple shorts and a purple shirt with pictures of white kittens.

FBI agents clad in white plastic suits used search dogs earlier Wednesday as they went into the family's light-green ranch-style home in a cozy neighborhood along a winding street. An FBI spokeswoman declined to discuss details of the investigation.

Young said the suits were to hide the FBI agents' scent from the dogs so they could get original scents of the girl. He also said investigators interviewed the girl's parents until about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, but did not take them into custody.

"Everything we've thought of doing we've probably done two or three times," he said. "Over 300 law enforcement officers have been involved. They've walked a wooded area three times in shoulder-to-shoulder searches, taken dogs in three times — different dogs each time — and none of those led us anywhere."

He said investigators also have done 300 consensual knock-and-talks, in which officers knocked on doors and asked if they could search the homes. Young said dozens of tips have come in, but many have produced nothing.

Several police cars were parked along the quiet tree-lined street Wednesday where the family's home is located, an American flag flying in their front yard. About a half dozen law enforcement officers appeared to be canvassing the neighborhood, coming in and out of nearby homes and congregating in their front yards. Police also scoured roads, a nearby apartment complex and a wooded area on at least four all-terrain vehicles.

Thelma Beagley, 77, a neighbor, stood in her driveway as detectives searched the family's one-story home. Police also cordoned off neighboring homes with yellow caution tape.

Beagley, whose driveway was covered with children's chalk drawings, said she would periodically see Lisa and her mother out in the yard with another neighbor who has young children.

"Every so often they would bring little Lisa over so I could see her," Beagley said. "She was just a typical little baby. Kind of bubbly."

She said Lisa's parents seemed to be wonderful caretakers.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was doing all it could to assist. Center president Ernie Allen was cautiously hopeful that Lisa would be found, saying that of the 278 infant abductions nationwide over the past 28 years, only 12 of those children didn't come home safely.

An Amber Alert was issued Tuesday morning but called off after 12 hours. Police said it was a formality because the alerts are designed to raise awareness early in an investigation.

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Associated Press writer Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City contributed to this report.