Crime & Courts

October 18, 2011

Missing baby's mother offers changing stories

The mother of a missing Kansas City, Mo., girl added several new twists to an already perplexing case Monday as the search for her infant daughter entered its third week.

The mother of a missing Kansas City, Mo., girl added several new twists to an already perplexing case Monday as the search for her infant daughter entered its third week.

Deborah Bradley revealed in appearances on network morning shows that she last saw 11-month-old Lisa Irwin nearly four hours before the time she initially gave police. And Bradley said she had been drinking wine —"enough to be drunk" — on Oct. 3, the night the child disappeared from her crib.

The revelations came on a busy day in the case that included the announcement that a high-profile New York lawyer would represent Lisa's parents. Meanwhile, investigators drained water from a north Kansas City creek and had dogs sniffing around the family's home in their continuing search for clues.

But authorities reported no progress in the case.

The lawyer, former New York City prosecutor Joe Tacopina, said at a news conference Monday afternoon that Bradley and Lisa's father, Jeremy Irwin, were innocent. He declined to say who was paying for his services.

He said the parents had consented to have their house searched again and would cooperate with investigators.

"They have nothing to hide, and they have said that from day one," Tacopina said.

He said his clients do not know what happened the night Lisa disappeared, and he had advised them to stop talking to the media.

In an interview with Peter Alexander on NBC's "Today" show, Bradley admitted she was drinking the night the baby disappeared.

When asked whether there was any way she could have done something to hurt her daughter, 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."

Tacopina said at the news conference that Bradley's admission was a sign of her credibility and willingness to be truthful even at the expense of people's perception of her.

The "Today" show also reported that Bradley is now saying she last saw Lisa around 6:40 p.m. when she put the baby to bed on Oct. 3. Police have said that Bradley told them she put Lisa to bed at 10:30 p.m.

When Tacopina was asked about the time difference, he said Bradley may not have been sure of the time she put Lisa to bed.

"There are going to be discrepancies, but there were absolutely no discrepancies that have caused police to take any action," he said.

Retired FBI agent Jeff Lanza, who has investigated child disappearances, said that if Bradley is changing her story as to what time she last saw her daughter, it sends up "gigantic red flags" for law enforcement.

In any criminal investigation, Lanza said, having an accurate timeline of events is "extremely important" and changing that timeline would require investigators to go back and look at things differently.

And anytime key witnesses change their story, it creates doubts with investigators about their credibility, he said.

"It indicates on some level that there are problems with the person providing the story," Lanza said.

Bradley, who was interviewed on "Today" alongside Jeremy Irwin, said she thought she could be arrested because she was the last person to be with Lisa before she disappeared.

"The main fear with that," she said, "is if they arrest me, people are going to stop looking for her. And then I'll never see her again. And I'll never know what happened."

She also spoke briefly about the polygraph test that police told her she failed. "They said that I failed when they asked me where she was," Bradley said.

In an appearance on "Good Morning America," Bradley said that while being questioned by police, investigators showed her burned clothes and a "Doppler thing with pings" from her cellphone.

"I hope the burned clothes weren't real," she said.

Megyn Kelly of Fox News interviewed Lisa's parents over the weekend for a show that was broadcast on Monday. Bradley acknowledged that she was drunk the night that her daughter disappeared.

"I don't see the problem in me having my grownup 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."

Bradley said she drank "maybe a couple of times a week," and only after her kids are in bed. She said that she takes anxiety medication, but does not use illegal drugs.

Although Tacopina said the parents were "cooperating in every sense of the word," police later disputed that statement.

"The parents' level of cooperation hasn't been what it needs to be in order for us to find this girl," said Kansas City Police Capt. Steve Young. "Should they change their minds, the door is always open."

Police last sat down for an interview with the parents on Oct. 6. That same day — two days after Lisa vanished — Bradley refused additional police questioning or contact unless it went through a lawyer, sources close to the investigation told The Star. The father has insisted he be interviewed with Bradley present, the sources said.

In the days following, police have had trouble reaching the parents to bounce tips off them or talk to them informally. In one instance, the parents said they could not talk to police because they had already scheduled a television interview with a national outlet, sources said.

Although police have had brief contacts with the parents in recent days, detectives have been unable to ask Bradley about inconsistencies in the stories she has told the national media outlets.

Tacopina, a former prosecutor in Brooklyn, has been involved in several high-profile cases in recent years, including the disappearance of American student Natalee Holloway in Aruba, the murder of Yale University student Annie Le and the New York police precinct house torture case involving a Haitian immigrant.

He also represented an associate of Michael Jackson who faced criminal charges, and he has represented a number of New York area police officers accused of crimes.

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