much, that is all we know right now. Ten-month-old baby Lisa Irwin was
there and then she wasn't. Two weeks have passed since her disappearance
and she hasn't reappeared, dead or alive. Wait, we know one other thing:
she didn't climb out of her crib and go for a walkabout. Someone removed
her from her home, so we know someone knows something. We just don't
In missing baby cases where proof of abduction is weak, there ends up
being two scenarios: the parents did something to the child or someone
else slipped in and made off with the child. Unlike an abduction where a
child is seen by witnesses being dragged into a vehicle or a case where
a child walking from school never arrives home but her parents have
solid alibis, a child who goes missing on the parents' watch often
causes the parents to become suspects at some point in time.
The parents of Sabrina Eisenburg became suspects very quickly; the
parents of Madeleine McCann became suspects when the police focus when
the detective on the case eventually began to think the timeline and
parents' behavior didn't add up. Both of these cases remain open and the
missing children have never been found. Both cases have a camp that
believes the child was abducted and a camp that thinks the parents
caused the death of the child and orchestrated a cover-up. If Baby Lisa
is never found, the parents, Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin, will be
added to this club.
Once upon a time we believed parents of missing children: we never
doubted that the people standing in front of the camera, crying and
begging for their child's return, were playing us. But after we got
burnt by the performance of Susan Smith and a number of others, we have
become more skeptical. We now replay the video to see if the parent is
crying real tears and we watch their body language. We examine every bit
of evidence. We don' t want to yet again be duped into expending emotion
on a parent who will turn out to be a killer and a fake and we don't
want to spend our valuable time searching for a child whose parents
already know exactly where she is.
Baby Lisa is missing and many people are not accepting the parents'
story at face value and throwing them their unconditional support. They
are searching for inconsistencies in their story, for proof that the
baby was abducted, for alibis that are supportable, and for behaviors
that don't seem right.
And, unfortunately, for Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin, they are not
faring well in the analysis.
The basic hurdles parents must clear these days to keep the public faith
in them include:
Real tears: Deborah clearly had tears in many interviews; Jeremy, no.
•Strong emotion: Deborah, yes, Jeremy, no.
•Nice house, well kept: yes
•Good looking baby: yes
•Charming photos and video: yes
•Willingness to speak in the media: yes, but then refused to do local
media, only national. Made it seem like a desire to be famous might be
•Willingness to talk to the police: yes, until they stopped. Then they
started again, only now police say they are not answering all the
•Pass the polygraph: Deborah says she failed; Jeremy didn't take one.
•Consistent story: Deborah has changed the time frame and now claims
she was drunk; Jeremy originally said he checked the kids first and now
says he talked to Deborah first
•Crime scene has visible signs of abduction: There is only a slightly
opened window and left- unlocked door which does not prove an abduction
•Parents show responsible behavior: Deborah now states it is okay for
her to be drunk while caring for the children
•Suspicious strangers have been lurking around: So far there has only
been a homeless handyman who is said to have been cleared
•Police not focusing on parents: The police are clearly heavily
focusing on the parents
•Not lawyering up: They now have Joran van der Sloot's lawyer which may
be smart but makes the them look like they need a strong defense.
•Not having things about the case that make you go "hmmm:" Deborah has
stated that her children heard some strange noises but she has never
asked them about what they heard and when because she doesn't want to
upset them. Another thing that has bugged me is that Deborah has called
her child "Baby Lisa" in television interviews; this is a name given by
the media to identify the story and not something a mother usually calls
her own child. Then, the "drunk/blackout" story came out after the
parents got a lawyer and one wonders if this is a defense strategy for
court or a way to excuse Deborah from answering any more police
questions about what happened that night. Finally, Deborah changing the
time she last saw her daughter (put her to bed) seems like a way to take
emphasis off the later time, a time that her sons may have heard
something and that Mom doesn't want to acknowledge. Oh, and Deborah also
said she thought she would be arrested which is very odd unless she is
aware there is more evidence implicating her than we know.
If I add up this list, I have to say the parents haven't done so well
going over these hurdles. Public suspicion is likely increasing rather
than decreasing. Right now, I would say as a criminal profiler, the
evidence and behaviors indicate the parents are more likely to have
involvement in the disappearance of Baby Lisa than a stranger to have
abducted her. But, without proof or solid evidence, this set of inputs
could be misinterpreted - an abductor might have managed to sneak in and
out without detection; maybe he did turn on the lights and steal phones
because he is a major weirdo.
The parents might have odd behaviors - even personality disorders -
which cause them to act in a manner that arouses suspicion but they
still didn't do anything to their baby. Mom and Dad could be awful
parents and still be innocent of doing anything criminal. But, because
they are not passing the "hurdle" test very well, the police are going
to be all over them, people are going to stop looking for the baby,
if no abductor is ever caught (and the parents aren't found guilty),
then, like the Eisenburgs and the McCanns, a cloud of suspicion will
always hang over their heads.
Where do you stand on the likelihood of Baby Lisa's parents being
involved in her disappearance? What would you add to the list of
"hurdles?" How does what you have seen of the case and the parents
affect your willingness to support the search for Lisa?