The Abduction of Little Lisa Irwin: The Investigation and Possible Explanations

It’s the eerie silence that accompanies the wee hours of the morning in the big city. Once busy and bustling streets are silent as death as a driver follows his headlights down the barren six lane streets. Every traffic light is green as the lone car passes the shuttered businesses that a mere six hours earlier were filled with thousands of busy tense shoppers.

When the driver went to work, it was a totally different world. The sun was out but a hand-breadth above the horizon , the streets packed with traffic, restaurants filled with hungry families and stopped cars filled with stressed faces as they all fought their way home to finally relax with their spouses, children, pets or parents. Now everything is silent and he is the only soul within sight. He is alone with his headlights and radio as he makes his way back to his house; back to his wife and baby daughter. The still silence reminds him that soon, he will join the legions in slumber; he will reunite with his young family in the sweet sanctity of sleep. The emptiness of the city served as a reminder of the emptiness that beckoned him to hasten his journey home; the vacant city represented a father’s heart as he had missed another sweet night with his beloved family.

The clock had barely struck 4am when he pulled into the driveway of his modest home. He was proud to look upon the house that his strenuous shift has allowed him to offer his family. A persistent longing wished that he could spend more of his waking hours enjoying the fruits of his labor with the ones he cherishes but simply hearing about their happiness and seeing them sleeping comfortably would have to suffice.

As he stepped out of his car and started towards the front door, he noticed that the lights inside were on. He wondered to himself if his wife was having trouble getting his ten month old daughter to sleep. Finding the front door unlocked, he entered the house with a slight irritation at such an oversight to his young family’s security. He proceeded down the hall stopping first at his infant daughter’s room. Upon finding her crib empty, his pace quickened as he stepped towards his own bedroom where he expected to find his wife and child awake together; given the blazing lights, unlocked door and empty crib.

The final steps that carried him into his bedroom would prove to be symbolic of his existence; for they were as though he were walking out of the life he had worked so hard to attain and stepping into a horror of which no words could ever described. There was no baby in bed with his sleeping wife, only their six year old son and a stray kitten they had taken in earlier that day. She seemed unaware of the things that were amiss in the house and the fact that their beloved infant was not where she had last left her. The other older children were roused in the suspicion that perhaps they had brought the child in to their rooms to have a companion with which to pass the evening. The siblings had no idea where their young sister was.

A quick survey of the baby’s room showed that the window had been tampered with and several cell phones usually kept in the kitchen were also missing. The police were frantically summoned; the nightmare had officially begun.

The above narrative is the real-life drama of the abduction of ten month old Lisa Irwin of Kansas City, Missouri. In the wee hours of the morning of Tuesday , October 4th Jeremy Irwin returned home after working the swing shift at his job as an electrician to the scene described above. The child’s mother and Jeremy’s wife Deborah Bradley stated that she was asleep and unaware of any activity that was occurring in the house. The Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) were summoned and they began a very intensive search for little baby Lisa.

The KCPD, FBI and various other agencies and volunteers performed extensive physical searches of the local terrain including the forest located in the immediate vicinity of the child’s house. Dozens of law enforcement officials walked shoulder-to-shoulder in a line lock-step performing a blanket search of the area insuring that even the smallest clue would not go un-noticed. The house and grounds were combed over with metal detectors, dogs and teams of forensics specialists who had set up an operations base camp less than a mile from the place were Baby Lisa was last seen: in her crib at 10:30PM the previous evening by her mother. Searchers even took to the skies in helicopters and sped on the surface astride ATVs in an effort to expand the search area. While finding the child as soon as possible is the top priority of law enforcement, it is also crucial to find the perpetrator. As the scores of officers and agents who were involved in the physical / geographical search effort worked tirelessly, there was another detachment that were working just as hard to find out who was responsible; find the perpetrator and the child won’t be far behind.

Statistics from the United States Justice Department and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children show that 2,000 children are reported missing (on average) in the US every day. The majority of these reports are for runaways, injured, lost or otherwise missing (not due to criminal interference) children. Of the almost 800,000 annual reports, 258, 115 of these children are actually abducted. Many factors go in to the determination of the direction the investigation will take. Perhaps the most universal starting point is determined by the knowledge of who is statistically more likely to be the victim’s abductor. Of the 258,115 abductions every year, 203, 900 (or 78%) are committed by a member of the child’s own family, 58,200 (21.9996%) were committed by non family members but known by the child and only 115 (.000446%…..a statistical anomaly) are known as “stereotypical” kidnappings: the abductor is unknown by the victim and is taken at least overnight with the intentions of either killing the child or keeping them permanently; these are the most dangerous type with the highest level of risk to the victim. Armed with these statistics, law enforcement started the criminal investigation of this tragedy focusing on the people who are the most probable perpetrators while continuing their search for both the child as well as evidence.

As with most cases of this sort, the police sought multiple interviews with the parents and immediate family of the victim. This is done to exonerate as well as, if needs be, to indict. The couple submitted to the authorities a list of family as well as anyone who may have had access to the home and family; all of which were purportedly cleared by the FBI as they all had verifiable alibis. There was one however, who did not have a satisfactory alibi for the night in question; Baby Lisa’s mother: Deborah Bradley.

Due to her lack of documentation or witnesses to vouch for her alibi, Ms. Bradley agreed to sit for a polygraph examination to help substantiate her claim of having been in asleep in her room during the time frame in which the infant was taken. In the meantime, while they awaited the results, the grieving couple continued to appeal to the media and assist law enforcement in both the physical search as well as their repeated requests for more interviews at the station. As the search continued, stress levels for both the family and police was mounting reaching a crescendo on Thursday afternoon when Deborah Bradley was seen speaking very animatedly and loudly to detectives, waving her arms and pointing in various directions before getting in her car with her husband and speeding off towards the police station. She would later announce to the public that she had failed her polygraph test and that the police had requested yet another interview at the station.

The mother’s announcement of her lie-detector failing wasn’t the only big announcement of the day. Steve Young, the KCPD spokesperson announced that same Thursday evening that the couple had stopped cooperating with the investigation:

Tonight, they decided to stop talking to detectives, and I don’t have to illustrate how that affects the investigation. That speaks for itself,”

The spokesperson also added the search of the area “didn’t lead to anything” and “the only thing that motivated that search was brainstorming of `What haven’t we done yet?” and was thus calling off the geographical search effort and shuttering the command post.

Ms. Bradley vehemently denied the police’s assertion of her non-cooperation: “we have never stopped cooperating with police…….We’ve been cooperative from day one, and we continue to assist the police with the investigation,” She also went on to describe how she felt as though the authorities had treated her like the lone suspect in the disappearance of the child; allegedly telling her: “you did it, you did it and we have nothing.” She described how the police had informed her that she had failed the polygraph “big time” but she was unclear as to which part she had failed and reiterated that she does not understand how she could have failed since she has no idea what happened to her daughter or where she may be at. Her husband Jeremy Irwin volunteered to submit for a polygraph of his own but was denied as he was considered to be already cleared of suspicion. The couple also stated that Deborah in particular, had been preparing for charges to be filed against her. The couple continued to make emotional television appeals during this time though the local television station KCTV was reporting that they were not talking to local media or the police.

This stand-off of sorts continued for several days with Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin exchanging “jabs” through the national media. At one point on Friday, KCPD said that they are glad to hear the couple telling the national media that they are still cooperating but KCPD still has not heard from them. The police also used the media forum to express their hope that the parents would resume cooperation in order to move the case forward as valuable time is being wasted. In the meantime, the FBI searched a local landfill for the second time. Duplicate searches are not at all uncommon in order to ensure that nothing had been overlooked the first time. The original search was prompted by the report that surfaced of a strange dumpster fire that occurred just a half mile from the home around the same time of Lisa’s disappearance. It wasn’t until Saturday evening that Capt. Young announced that the Lisa’s parents had resumed cooperating with police.

With the parents assistance the KCPD and FBI were finally able to resume a portion of the investigation that had been delayed for three long days. The open window, the one that the abductor presumably utilized to gain entrance to the house, was seen receiving scrutiny by the forensics team as well as various leads that only the parents’ could shed light on were finally able to be sifted through. Though the authorities are mum about it, one question above all hangs above the investigation like a neon billboard, the 800lb gorilla in the room: why, if your child is presumed taken from you in such a statistically rare manner in which every second takes them farther away from home, would the parents choose to “ice out” and ignore for three days the very agencies who alone possess the resources and manpower to find and return their child?

One answer may be that the authorities were uncovering more than Ms. Bradley was comfortable with people knowing. As the investigation tries to find any reason that may drive someone to take a 10 month old infant, every action of every aspect of life must be examined. This would require the parents’ complete openness and honesty. If certain aspects were glossed over or omitted and the authorities later found out about it through the course of their investigation, it would serve to draw attention to the parents as to why they felt they needed to lie or omit certain information. Regardless of the reason behind the concealment, this makes the parents look like they have something to hide; especially since the loss of an infant child is more than most people need to forget about modesty and pride when assisting the agencies tasked with finding both the child and the kidnapper. There havebeen some bits of information that would fit this description. Please keep in mind that the paragraph above and everything that is to follow is pure speculation and merely an attempt to give some sort of reasoning to explain Ms. Bradley decision to not cooperate for 72 hours; an act that most parents in that situation would find unthinkable.

A video tape has fallen into the hands of police that came from the security cameras of a local corner market. The footage it contains allegedly shows the mother of the infant: Ms. Bradley and a man who is not her husband (Jeremy Irwin) together in the store on the night in question. Reportedly the footage shows them purchasing a box of “wine.” It is not hard at all to imagine how this could be very important to the investigation. It shows the mother without her infant daughter, participating in a meeting with someone who clearly would’ve had access to the family. Also, it seems to indicate some manner of romantic involvement which could very well serve as a motive for the removal of a child especially if there were questions or doubts pertaining to the paternity of the child.

Jeremy Irwin seemed to hint at this very theory when, in an interview, he was responding to the question: “who could’ve done this?” He answered: “Someone who cheated on her husb…….” At that moment he cut himself off as the mother and grandmother of the child both turned away. The trip to the store was not mentioned by Ms. Bradley during any of her on camera interviews; a fact that is notable since she has revealed pretty much everything during her camera time…..even those items police would rather keep quiet. This fact leads one to believe that it was uncovered by the police rather than volunteered by the mother.

A receipt found in the home lead the authorities to the store where they were able to obtain the tape. It was shown that the two entered the store at roughly 5pm…..five and a half hours prior to the last time the child was seen. The man appeared to be in his twenties and the two of them bought the wine and several other items that have not been identified. There are reports of paper napkins and plates but those have been denied by the store’s manager. (click HERE for source story). The omission of these details to the authorities would be grounds for extreme suspicion as they represent several different motives and even an accomplice / perpetrator for this tragic crime.

Another matter for speculation is the crime scene itself. When coupled with Ms. Bradley’s apparent fascination with “national-only” media and her choice to not cooperate with police, seem to indicate her desire to guide the investigation in a certain direction as well as shape public opinion about the police and their treatment of her when the “solution” seems so obvious. Whenever the police would make an announcement about the status of the parents’ cooperation, she would counter with a flat denial an insist that they are still cooperating with police. Ms. Bradley would then go on to describe the scene (often using vivid imagery and intense adjectives: “the lights were blazing” etc) and make reference to the three cell phones that were taken and how she has heard nothing about what has become of those. The police respond to that allegation by saying that the cell phones have not generated any substantial leads; although they do note that they found there was one call made at around 2:30 am from one of the phones but have declined to comment about it.

KCTV’s Twitter page notes that Deborah has also ceased to speak with any local media; opting instead for only national exposure. It appears that the mother of the missing child is on a campaign not just to raise awareness of the case and appeal for help in the search but rather to influence the public opinion of the nation as a whole as to the innocence of the mother and the authorities’ falsely accusing her. She spent more effort in convincing the masses that she was cooperating and the police were victimizing her rather than actually helping the only set of people with the authority to investigate. By repeatedly bringing up the cell phones and the fact that the crime scene itself is conclusive of how the child came to be abducted, she is trying to show that the police are unfairly focusing in on her when it should be (according to her) a very straight-forward and obvious modus operandi.

“All I can think of is that maybe somebody wanted a baby,” Ms. Bradley stated to reporters. She also told reporters that the open window had been tampered with while the authorities have stated several times that there was no sign of forced entry. Ms. Bradley stated her belief as to what happened to her daughter, spills information that supports her theory (at times creatively embellished or contrary to what the authorities report), omits or won‘t discuss findings or evidence that leads to other conclusions, expresses her frustration that police are not scrutinizing her evidence (cell phones), announces twice that she is preparing to be charged (the second time being on Tuesday, Oct 11) and the 72 hour cessation of communication presumably because the police were not pursuing her theory but investigating all possibilities; including her own involvement, all serve as evidence of her trying to use the media to guide this investigation in a direction more suitable for her interests. She has routinely tried to “beat” the police in announcing negative news about her: i.e. her failing the polygraph exam so that it could be combined with a tearful plea in order to gain the sympathy of the entire nation and paint the police in a victimizing light. “you did it. You did it. And we have nothing.”

To have a child abducted must be a pain that most of us can not even begin to imagine. The frustration and hurt involve must be beyond imagination and must not even be attempted to understood by those of us who have not experienced it. That being said, the parents who have dealt with this all have one thing in common: they all did whatever they needed to do to increase the chances that their loved ones made it home again safely; even if it meant enduring the police interrogation light temporarily in order to rule them out as suspects. The police and especially the FBI are experts in child abduction and the vast majority of the parent work with the experts in all facets of the process. They coordinate their public announcements and the information they share with law enforcement to ensure that they are not inadvertently helping the kidnapper know exactly what is going on in the investigation. They do not use the media as a counter-voice to police pres conferences to debate what law-enforcement is saying or to cast a negative light on the men and women who are giving so much of their own emotions and time with their own families to find this missing little girl. The victim here is little baby Lisa Irwin and the mother seems to have forgotten that.

The world joins baby Lisa’s family in hoping that she is found and returned home safe and sound. They also collectively hope that Ms. Bradley is found to have had nothing to do with this horrific disappearance but she has, through her actions, brought the cloud of suspicion upon herself through her own actions. All speculation aside, the world must await the outcome of the police investigation and the efforts of all involved in the search in order to get the answers as to what happened to this sweet little girl.