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(Source: WSFA 12 News)
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The alleged murder weapon (Source: WSFA 12 News)
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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -
Baby Lisa Irwin's parents held a vigil outside their home Wednesday night to mark a somber anniversary.
The overall message: Time does not diminish hope.
Family members gave the child's mother, Debbie Bradley, hugs as she stepped out of her home onto the lawn. The vigil began with a prayer and song.
Bradley broke down as she read a note that had been sent to her. Jeremy Irwin, Lisa's father, stood on the family's front porch with other family members and friends but did not speak.
Family representatives said Wednesday was a tough day, but they thanked the community for their support.
The vigil was closed with a reading of the Lord's Prayer.
"We really appreciate the support; the community had been absolutely amazing. We just ask that you keep it up and keep Lisa in your prayers, because we are absolutely not giving up until she comes home," Bradley said.
It was a year ago when Bradley put her then 10-month-old youngest child into her crib. She was gone when her father arrived home the next morning.
After months of searching and chasing down leads, police and people are still wondering what happened to the baby.
Baby Lisa was a month shy of turning 1 when she went missing. Her father called 911 about 4 a.m. Oct. 4.
Investigators now face the great challenge of finding the girl at an age where most children physically change incredibly quickly.
This is one of the reasons why the National Center for Missing and Endangered Children will often work with the FBI on an age-progression technology. It can create an image of what a child would look like after a certain amount of time has passed.
Wyandotte County sheriff's Lt. Kelli Bailiff said the policy is to wait two years before an age progression image is made.
The technology is free to parents of missing children and has been known to help solve cases in the past.
"It's had some very exciting results. We have located some children and have been able to identify even deceased bodies from age progression," Bailiff said.
Bailiff said the center typically waits two years because it has thousands of cases on its hands and needed a guideline to follow in order to keep all the cases organized.
Lisa's parents still live in their same home off North Lister Avenue with Bradley's two sons. They seem to be living a normal life.
While investigators still actively work the case, the investigation appears largely stalled. Police said last week that they have questions that only Bradley can answer.
Bradley said she put her ill daughter to sleep about 6:30 p.m. Oct. 3. The couple maintains that an intruder snatched baby Lisa from her crib and three telephones while Bradley was passed out drunk in her bedroom. Irwin was in the Midtown area working on a job. He discovered his daughter missing when he came home from work.
The closed doors in the investigation are a frustrating situation that a retired Kansas City Police Department sergeant can relate to.
"I feel for them. I've been there, I've gone through that and I know how frustrating that can be," retired Detective Dave Bernard said.
Bernard retired from the police department weeks before Lisa went missing, but he's no rookie when it comes to high profile, long-term investigations.
"When it's a high profile case, you're under a microscope. Everything you do and say is watched. It's picked apart, it's analyzed," he said.
That's exactly what happened to Bernard when he supervised a squad of detectives in the Precious Doe case in 2001 - a case involving a young girl that took four years to crack.
"Usually time is your enemy. When you start an investigation like that, the first few hours are critical because you have people setting alibis and they're destroying evidence," he said.
While one year has come and gone in Lisa's disappearance, Bernard said experienced detectives understand time lapse can also help solve a case.
"Sometimes time can be an ally because the people you talk to at the time may have allegiances to each other but, over time, allegiances break up, alliances crumble and sometimes people are more willing to talk more freely after that's happened," he said.
Bernard has never worked a minute on the baby Lisa case, but he said there is a good reason to talk to Bradley. Police said Bradley has not agreed to do a sit-down interview with them since the first weeks of the then 11-month-old's disappearance.
"Usually as a general rule, the younger the victim, the suspect or the perpetrator, the lies close in. Maybe the mother's boyfriend, but they close in because children are protected by their parents. They don't usually allow them to have complete contact with complete strangers," Bradley said.
The family's attorneys are working hard representing the family. John Picerno, the Kansas City attorney for Bradley and Jeremy Irwin, said his clients are learning to move on with life without forgetting their youngest is still missing.
"They try to live as normal a life as possible. As far as remembering Lisa, her room is intact, they buy her gifts at certain times of the year to commemorate certain holidays, they buy clothes they believe would fit her now if she is returned," Picerno said.
The one police detective still actively working the case can't say things have moved forward. Police released a statement last week saying Bradley is still refusing to sit down for a talk with investigators.
"It's progressed to the point now where Deborah and Jeremy will contact law enforcement without going through the attorneys," Picerno said.
Bill Stanton, the private investigator from New York, is also still working the case.
"Yes, I would. But we're getting into a gray area that I shouldn't be speaking to," he said when asked if he would advise anyone in Bradley and Jeremy Irwin's situation to sit down and talk with police one-on-one.
Stanton maintains he's just a consultant to the family, but he firmly believes Jersey, a handyman police have questioned and cleared, has some involvement in baby Lisa's disappearance.
"I am more resolved to the fact that this crime was not perpetrated by either Deborah or Jeremy, but rather someone outside the home," he said.
Stanton said one thing is for sure - one year later, still more questions remain than answers.