Sixteen days in the Lisa Irwin case: A KC toddler is still missing
By TONY RIZZO
The Kansas City Star
Hundreds of officers have spent countless hours running down tips and scouring for evidence since 11-month-old Lisa Irwin was reported missing from her crib Oct. 4.
On Wednesday, police and federal agents returned to the home with a search warrant. Investigators wearing protective suits spent most of the day and night working inside and outside the residence, as well as around a garage behind the home.
Police have publicly revealed little about what they know so far, including any results from Wednesday’s search. Indeed, virtually every substantive bit of information about the case — and who police might suspect in the baby’s disappearance — has come from her parents or people speaking on their behalf.
Allegations that Lisa’s mother, Deborah Bradley, failed a polygraph test, and statements that she was drunk and may have “blacked out” on the night her daughter went missing and that police were accusing her of involvement in the crime have all been revealed by Bradley herself on national television.
And while a lawyer for Lisa’s parents says they are cooperating in the investigation, police have stated publicly that is not the case.
The parents have not sat down and spoken with detectives for more than a week, and efforts to re-interview two older children, who were in the home on the night of the disappearance, have been refused, police said Wednesday.
Here’s how the investigation has unfolded and what police and the family members have said:
Oct. 4: At 4 a.m. Lisa’s father, Jeremy Irwin, returned from his overnight job as an electrician to the family’s home in the 3600 block of North Lister Avenue and reported his daughter missing.
Deborah Bradley told police she had last seen Lisa in her crib about 10:30 the night before.
Kansas City police declared an Amber Alert and launched a massive search. Police looked at the possibility that a kidnapper entered and exited through a small bedroom window. But later that first day they said they couldn’t determine a point of entry.
A neighbor told police of seeing a man with a baby in the area about 2 a.m.
Police Capt. Steve Young, a department spokesman, said that the situation was unusual because child abductions commonly involve a custody dispute, but that in this case both parents reside in the home. The unmarried parents have two other children in the home, boys aged 10 or younger, from previous relationships, Young said.
A child victim specialist interviewed both boys that day while detectives questioned the parents.
Oct. 5: Lisa’s parents spoke publicly for the first time at a news conference.
“We just want our baby back,” Bradley said. “Please … bring her home.”
Young said investigators had conducted numerous consensual searches of residences near the Irwin home.
Oct. 6: The parents appeared on morning national television shows for the first time to plead for Lisa’s safe return. Afterward, in a brief interview with local media, Bradley said nothing looked out of place or disturbed in Lisa’s room.
“It was like they just walked in and just disappeared,” she said.
The couple also revealed that three cellphones were taken from their home the night Lisa vanished.
That night, Young stated publicly that the parents had stopped cooperating with police. A short time later, an aunt of Lisa Irwin read a short statement to the media disputing that.
Oct. 7: On NBC’s “Today” show, Bradley said police had told her she had failed a polygraph test.
“I continued to say, ‘That’s not possible,’ ” Bradley said. “Because I don’t know where she’s at. I did not do this.”
On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Bradley said: “From the start, when they’ve questioned me, once I couldn’t fill in gaps, it turned into ‘You did it, you did it.’
“They took a picture down from the table and said, ‘Look at your baby.’ And ‘Do what’s right for her.’ I kept saying, ‘I don’t know…’ I just sat there. I didn’t even ask to leave. I just let them keep asking questions.”
Oct. 8: Kansas City police said detectives had once again spoken with Bradley and Irwin. The couple also consented to additional searches, police said, and crime scene investigators worked inside and outside their home.
Mike LeRette, a cousin of Bradley, said the family planned to scale back media interviews to focus on generating tips for police.
Oct. 9: Family and friends went to Kansas Speedway on a race day and passed out thousands of fliers with pictures of Lisa, said Jeremy Irwin’s sister, Ashley Irwin.
Detectives spent several more hours at the family home and appeared to be trying to re-create a possible kidnapping by climbing through a window.
Oct. 10: A Clay County grand jury issued subpoenas to all the local network TV affiliates, requesting any raw footage of interviews with Irwin family members, friends or neighbors.
Investigators also returned to the Irwin home and were seen inside and outside a neighbor’s house.
Reports surfaced about a homeless man seen in the neighborhood in the previous weeks. A neighbor said police had showed him a photograph of the homeless man and asked about any possible connection to the missing child.
Oct. 11: Ashley Irwin said on “Good Morning America” that the family thought police intended to arrest Deborah Bradley.
“It is what police do,” she said. “They don’t have any leads, so they have to pin it on somebody.”
Young responded by saying that any assertion that police were trying to pin the disappearance on the child’s mother “was absolutely not true.”
“We don’t feel any pressure to accuse anybody,” Young said. “We are under pressure to do what we can to find a child.”
Later that day, Ashley Irwin told The Star that her nationally televised comments were taken out of context.
“When they (police) don’t have suspects, when they don’t have any leads, then it always circles back around to square one, which is the parents.”
After a tipster’s call, investigators drained and searched a well at a vacant home near the Irwin residence. Police said nothing was found.
Meanwhile, a New York private investigator, Bill Stanton, announced that he had been hired to assist in finding Lisa. He wouldn’t say who was paying him.
Oct. 12-13: Media outlets began airing video of Deborah Bradley recorded at a Northland grocery store earlier on the evening that her daughter was last seen. In the video, Bradley and a man bought baby-related items and a box of wine.
Police did not comment publicly on the video or speculate about the man’s identity. Stanton later said the man was Bradley’s brother.
Police also asked to re-interview the older children, but police said the parents refused the request.
Oct. 14: Stanton announced that the anonymous person who had hired him was putting up a $100,000 reward for Lisa’s safe return or for information leading to the conviction of those who had abducted her.
Oct. 15: Police searched a boarded-up house after receiving a 911 call stating that diapers and a child’s backpack had been found in the basement of the house near Northeast Russell Road and Chouteau Trafficway, less than a mile from the Irwin home.
Young later said it appeared the diapers had been in the house for some time, outside the timeframe of Lisa’s disappearance.
“It just doesn’t fit,” he said.
Police also said a homeless man sought for questioning in the case was in custody on unrelated felony charges. Young said the man was arrested on a parole violation that had nothing to do with the Irwin case and “he is not a suspect.”
Oct. 16: Military police officers from the Missouri National Guard combed areas near the Irwin home.
Oct. 17: Three TV networks aired interviews with Lisa’s parents.
Bradley revealed that she put her daughter to bed around 6:40 p.m. Oct. 3. That was almost four hours prior to the time she initially gave police as the last time she saw her daughter. She said she didn’t remember checking on her daughter at 10:30 p.m., as she initially told police.
Bradley said on “Today” that she was drinking wine that night, “enough to be drunk.”
When asked whether there was any way she could have done something to hurt Lisa, she said: “No. No. No. And if I thought there was a chance, I’d say it. ... I don’t think that alcohol changes a person enough to do something like that.”
On “Good Morning America,” Bradley said police investigators had showed her burned clothes and a “Doppler thing with pings” from her cellphone.
“I hope the burned clothes weren’t real,” she said.
In an interview with Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly, Bradley said she might have had five glasses of wine that night and said it was possible she could have “blacked out.”
“I don’t see the problem in me having my grown-up time,” Bradley told Kelly. “I take good care of my kids. I keep my house clean. I do their laundry. I kiss their boo-boos. I fix them food. I’m involved in their school stuff.
“I mean, to me there’s nothing wrong with me doing what I want to do after dark. As soon as I’m done drinking, I go right to bed.”
New York lawyer Joe Tacopina announced he now represented Lisa’s parents. He also declined to say who was paying him. He said they had consented to have their house searched again and would cooperate with investigators.
Tacopina also said he had advised Bradley and Jeremy Irwin to stop talking to the media.
Young said that police had tracked 550 leads to completion and that they had “all led to nothing.”
Oct. 18: Police and FBI search teams focused on a wooded area at 34th Terrace and North Brighton Avenue, but nothing substantial was found.
Young said that night that police had obtained a search warrant for the Irwin home. Previous searches had been with the family’s consent, Young said. He declined to say why police sought the warrant.
Young also reported that the parents had not sat down face to face with investigators since Oct. 8 and had only responded to specific questions concerning tip information.
Fox News aired more of Kelly’s interview with Lisa’s parents. Bradley said police told her a call was made on one of the family’s stolen cellphones at 2:30 a.m. Oct. 4.
She said that she was sleeping at the time and that whoever took Lisa would have used the phone. She said police didn’t tell her where the call had been placed except that it was “close by.”
When asked whether she thought police were lying to her about the call, Bradley said, “Yeah, they’re supposed to” to elicit a confession.
Oct. 19: Armed with a search warrant, officers returned in force to the Irwin family home on Lister. The investigators included bomb and arson squad officers who have special equipment that could be used in the search, Young said.
The search team remained at the house late into the night.
Tacopina told The Associated Press he knew about the warrant only through the media.
“I don’t know why a warrant is needed. They can go in and out any time,” Tacopina said. “They have had unfettered access because we want answers.”