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Image: Lisa Irwin
AP
Police and federal authorities have been searching extensively for Lisa Irwin, who was 10 months old when her parents reported her missing on Oct. 4, 2011.
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updated 10/17/2011 6:07:54 PM ET 2011-10-17T22:07:54

A prominent New York City defense attorney has been hired to represent the parents of a missing Kansas City baby.

Joe Tacopina told reporters Monday that he had been hired to represent Jeremy Irwin and Deborah Bradley. His past clients have included Joran Van der Sloot, the Dutch man suspected in the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba.

Story: Baby Lisa’s mom: I was drunk when she vanished

Tacopina praised Kansas City police for their investigation but insisted the parents have "nothing to hide."

Bradley told NBC's "Today" show in an interview aired Monday morning that she believes she will be arrested in her daughter's Oct. 4 disappearance. She told Fox News in another interview that she was drunk and may have blacked out. But she insists she did nothing to harm her daughter.

FBI agents searched the family's house with dogs Monday and drained a nearby creek in their effort to find the child. Police have said they have no suspects or major leads even after multiple searches of the family's neighborhood, nearby wooded areas, a landfill and abandoned homes.

Bradley and Irwin held hands at a Monday afternoon news conference where  announced he was representing them. Tacopina said it was natural for police to focus on the parents.

"The police have to start with the mother and father, they absolutely have to," he said. "They're the first people they should look at. But don't come to a conclusion because there's no other answers."

Tacopina refused to say who was paying him, only saying he had been hired to counsel their parents through the investigation. He insisted they "have nothing to hide."

"I don't recall in recent history anyone under this umbrella of suspicion be so open and forthright, warts and all, regarding the events," Tacopina said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Mom of missing baby Lisa admits drinking

  1. Transcript of: Mom of missing baby Lisa admits drinking

    ANN CURRY, co-host: We're going to make a turn now to Kansas City and new developments in the case of that missing baby, Lisa Irwin . Her mother is opening up in a new interview about what she was doing the night her daughter was last seen. NBC 's Peter Alexander is in Kansas City this morning with details. Hey, Peter , good morning.

    PETER ALEXANDER reporting: And good morning to you. Lisa Irwin 's parents have been silent for more than a week until now. They tell NBC News that this awful experience has brought them closer together than ever before. And they also say that they are hopeful that their baby daughter will be returned home safely. During our 45-minute interview, Deborah Bradley , Lisa 's mother, revealed that she was drinking that night, and she also says that she thinks she could be arrested because of her daughter 's disappearance. I began by asking her why.

    Ms. DEBORAH BRADLEY: Well, I was the last one with her. And from judging on how the questioning went, that's kind of a fear that I have. And the main fear with that 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.

    ALEXANDER: Nearly two weeks have passed since baby Lisa 's parents, Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin , say their infant daughter , seen here in home video shot earlier this year, vanished from her crib. You told us that police even accused you of killing your daughter .

    Ms. BRADLEY: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

    ALEXANDER: How has that been for authorities to focus on you at times?

    Ms. BRADLEY: Terrible. Because my daughter 's missing. The last thing that I want to have to worry about is something like that. I shouldn't have to put any energy, any time or effort into anything but finding her.

    ALEXANDER: Just before 5:00 on the night Lisa disappeared, Deborah , who's 25, was spotted on surveillance tape with her brother at a grocery store buying baby supplies and boxed wine. Now, for the first time , Deborah admits she was drinking at home in the hours before she says Lisa vanished. Were you drinking that night?

    Ms. BRADLEY: Yes.

    ALEXANDER: How much?

    Ms. BRADLEY: Enough to be drunk .

    ALEXANDER: So you were drunk .

    Ms. BRADLEY: Mm-hmm.

    ALEXANDER: A lot of people are going to say, ' Deborah , you were drunk that night. Is there any chance you did anything that hurt your daughter that you're just not telling us?'

    Ms. BRADLEY: No, no, no. And if I thought there was a chance, I'd say it. No, no. I don't think that alcohol changes a person enough to do something like that.

    ALEXANDER: Deborah now says she last saw her daughter when she put her to bed at 6:40 PM , not 10:30 , as the family first reported. It was the first time Lisa 's father Jeremy , an electrician, had ever worked an overnight shift making repairs at this Kansas City Starbucks . Do you in any way question that she's not telling you or police everything she knows?

    Mr. JEREMY IRWIN: No. There's no question to be had there. I know who she is. I know what kind of mother she is.

    ALEXANDER: When Jeremy got home just before 4 in the morning , he says he found the front door unlocked, several lights on, and a window screen tampered with. Police have tried to recreate how an abductor might have broken into the home through that window. Does it seem feasible to you that someone could have gotten in while you and your two boys were sleeping and you wouldn't have heard a thing?

    Mr. IRWIN: Our bedroom is on the exact opposite corner of the house, and she sleeps with the fan on high.

    Ms. BRADLEY: Yeah, but they must have been doing it much quieter than the police were.

    Mr. IRWIN: Yeah, quieter.

    ALEXANDER: You told us that police said you failed a lie detector test. What question or questions did they say you failed?

    Ms. BRADLEY: They said that I failed when they asked me where she was.

    ALEXANDER: Deborah and Jeremy say they've refused to let detectives reinterview Lisa 's eight- and five-year-old half-brothers.

    Ms. BRADLEY: They said they heard noises, but I don't know if that was before we went to sleep or after. I have not sat down and talked to them about it specifically to not have to put them through anything else.

    ALEXANDER: On Sunday, the Missouri National Guard joined the exhaustive search for baby Lisa , combing open and wooded areas near the Irwin family home. Also this weekend, inside the basement of this abandoned house in the neighborhood, investigators discovered a child's backpack and used diapers, but police discounted that finding. Meanwhile, detectives have now questioned a local handyman with a criminal history who'd been unaccounted for since before Lisa 's disappearance. Still, police say they have no suspects, including Lisa 's parents. If the person who took your baby daughter is out there watching this right now, what do you say to them?

    Ms. BRADLEY: She needs her family . We need her. We're losing more sanity as each day progresses.

    ALEXANDER: Also this morning, NBC News has learned that the Irwin family is expected to announce later this afternoon, Ann , that they are bringing in an

    attorney. Ann: All right, Peter Alexander , thank you so much . Judge Jeanine Pirro is a former prosecutor and spent the last two weeks in Kansas City following this story. Jeanine , good morning.

    CURRY: Good morning.

    Judge JEANINE PIRRO (Former District Attorney/Westchester County, New York): So this news that Deborah was -- is now admitting that she was drunk the night that Lisa disappeared and actually the last time she saw the baby was at 6:40 and not at 10:30 . Now, why would a family essentially change its story?

    CURRY: Well, you know, when you have a missing 10-month-old baby, I mean, the truth is absolutely essential. Minutes count. Now, I spoke with the mother, Deborah , and the father at length eye-to-eye. I said to her, 'What time did you put baby Lisa to bed?' She said, I put her to bed several hours earlier than the last time I checked on her, which was at 10:30 . Now, two weeks later we come out with a new time. Why is that? Time is essential. It creates new windows and new areas of investigation. That is very, very concerning.

    Ms. PIRRO: Maybe concealing the fact that she was drunk , maybe being concerned about the repercussions from that?

    CURRY: Well, we know that she was buying alcohol and that box of wine just before 5:00. I spoke to the store clerk about that purchase. She seemed fine. She bought baby wipes, she bought baby food . But it would explain why she didn't hear the baby monitor , why the dog -- she didn't hear the dog barking. But, you know, now we -- she comes out and she says, 'I was drunk .' You know, people were believing her because her story was consistent. I spoke with her, she was very consistent. The neighbors said she loved that baby. The store clerk said she was a wonderful mother. The baby was always appropriately dressed and in good health. Now she comes out with, 'The last time I saw my baby was at 6:40; and, by the way, I was drunk .' You know, this isn't the kind of thing that you want to bring out after the fact when time is essential here. A 10 -month-old is missing.

    Ms. PIRRO: Meantime, Deborah is saying they're not allowing -- the family 's not allowing the boys, the stepbrothers of Lisa , to be reinterviewed. They're just ages eight and five. But What would explain why the police wants to reinterview them and why the family would refuse?

    CURRY: Well, first of all, I think they're eight and six. And here's the problem. If those boys have any information -- we know the mother was drinking with the next-door neighbor and her four-year-old daughter who was watching videos with her sons. I think that the opportunity to speak to the sons about someone they may have seen at or around the house and the Kansas City police -- and they're doing a fantastic job; they picked up this homeless guy, Jersey , who was not seen since the baby's been missing. But every piece to the puzzle becomes extremely important. Time is essential. Now you come out and say it was at 6:40, four hours before I told you last week? Not good.

    Ms. PIRRO: Hm. It's clear the Kansas City Police Department -- you just said they're doing a great job -- are keeping their sights on the family . But are they at the same time also conducting a parallel investigation, looking at the possibility this could be a stranger abduction case?

    CURRY: Oh, there's no question. They're looking at all avenues. They have left no stone unturned. They have gone and spoke to sexual predators who are like saying, 'You know, hey, we're waiting for you to come and talk to us.' I mean, this is a very competent department. They keep it close to the vest, and this whole idea about her saying she's being arrested, I don't believe that that's the case. Nothing that I've heard on the ground indicates that that is imminent.

    Ms. PIRRO: All right, Judge Jeanine Pirro . Thank you so much for your perspective this morning.

    CURRY:

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