Kansas City, Mo. Decades of statistics on infant abductions in the U.S. suggest one of the least likely scenarios in last week’s disappearance of a Kansas City baby is that a stranger broke into her home and quietly snatched her from her crib.
But the numbers also lead national experts to believe that if 10-month-old Lisa Irwin were taken by an intruder in the middle of the night, as her parents told investigators, she is likely still alive.
Strangers who kidnap infants or young children, though rare, often do so because they want a child of their own, not because they intend to hurt or kill the child, said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
“The recovery rate for infants is very, very high. There is real hope here,” added Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Arlington, Va.
But the experts acknowledge that investigators often focus on close relatives when a baby goes missing, in part because statistics show that far more infants and young children are killed by a parent than a stranger.
“Suspicion almost always falls heavily on the parents, especially when it’s young kids,” Finkelhor said. “Fifteen hundred parents kill their kids every year, and that’s heavily focused on the under 1 year of age category.”
Allen said his organization has handled 278 infant abduction cases during his nearly three decades with the group. Only 13 cases involved a stranger coming into a home and taking a baby, and all but one of those children were recovered unharmed.
Lisa’s parents, Jeremy Irwin and Deborah Bradley, reported their daughter missing early Tuesday. Their relationship with investigators chilled late Thursday, when police said the parents had stopped cooperating. The couple quickly insisted they only needed a break from incessant police questioning.
On Saturday, the parents were meeting again with detectives, Kansas City police spokesman Capt. Steve Young said. He declined to say what was discussed.
A day earlier, Bradley told The Associated Press that police had accused her of being involved in her daughter’s disappearance, which she vehemently denies, and told her she failed a lie detector test. The couple told the AP police have treated them like suspects, and Bradley said detectives told her: “‘You did it. You did it. And we have nothing.’”
Investigators said they have no solid leads or suspects despite an extensive search.