TODAY   |  October 24, 2011

Missing baby: Cadaver dog picks up scent

Joseph Tacopina, the lawyer representing missing baby Lisa Irwin’s parents, weighs in on the latest police report which revealed that a cadaver dog picked up on the scent of a human corpse in the Irwin home.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, co-host: There are some dramatic new twists this morning tied to the disappearance of now 11-month-old Lisa Irwin . NBC 's Peter Alexander is in Kansas City this morning where he was given a tour of the Irwin family home. Peter , good morning to you.

PETER ALEXANDER reporting: Savannah , good morning to you. It has been exactly three weeks to the day since Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin say their baby daughter, just 10 months old, disappeared from her crib inside that home. And as you noted, dramatic new developments this week and including revelations that an FBI cadaver dog had a positive hint on the scent of a dead body inside that home. Overnight the Irwin family allowed us in the home. They insist they have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide. Sunday night baby Lisa 's parents, Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin , returned to the home where they say their daughter disappeared for a candlelight vigil. Neither Deborah nor Jeremy said a word, but they were both in tears as Jeremy 's father, Lisa 's grandfather, offered an emotional prayer.

Unidentified Man: Please keep her safe and bring her home to us as soon as possible.

ALEXANDER: After the vigil, the Irwin family invited NBC News inside the home. This is baby Lisa 's bedroom that you've heard so much about. One of the first things you notice is the spot right here on the light switch where police were trying to find fingerprints. This way you can see the small frames, her hand and footprint from the day little Lisa was born. Her clothes, still hanging in the closet, the Scooby-Doo onesie that she liked to wear sitting on the rack. And then right here, this is the crib that Lisa was sleeping in. Deborah and Jeremy both believe this is where she was taken from that night , and sort of an ominous reminder of what they say happened here, the graphite from the fingerprinting process by police. This is the window where Deborah and Jeremy suspect an abductor may have come inside the home. They say the screen was pushed in like this, this is a family room or a computer room . If it was an abduction, they would've had to come through here, through this room and then into the kitchen. Come with me really quickly, I'll show you. This right here on the counter is exactly where the family says the three cell phones were missing. Deborah and Jeremy believe that the abductor would have come into this hallway, passing by the room where Lisa 's brothers sleep. One of them was asleep there that night . Then coming into here, her bedroom, picking up from her crib, then walking down this hallway. And come with me, then they would've come this direction with the baby in their arms to the front door that Jeremy found unlocked that morning at 3:45 AM , where you can see police have tried to find new fingerprints. This weekend, this newly filed police affidavit is revealing dramatic new findings in this baffling three-week-old mystery. According to the affidavit, last week an FBI cadaver dog smelled the scent of a human corpse somewhere here on the floor right near the bed.

Mr. CLINT VAN ZANDT (Former FBI Profiler): Human decomposition usually starts within four minutes after biological death. It's going to be within minutes that a dog should be able to find that scent if it actually existed.

ALEXANDER: According to the affidavit, Deborah told investigators she didn't initially look for Lisa behind the house because she was afraid of what she might find. Last week, investigators spent nearly 17 hours executing a search warrant inside the home. The new court documents also detail exactly what

detectives collected: a comforter, a Disney character shirt, a Glow-worm toy, as well as rolls of tape and a tape dispenser. And left behind inside the kitchen, this empty box of wine that Deborah admits she drank enough to get drunk on the night she says her daughter vanished. Deborah was seen buying that box of wine on surveillance video just hours before she says she put Lisa to bed. Meanwhile, police have also reviewed this new surveillance video taken from a gas station less than a mile away from the Irwin home at 2 AM the night Lisa vanished that shows the blurry image of a person walking out of a wooded area. At least three witnesses, including this neighbor who lives only doors away from the Irwins , say they've spoken to investigators about a suspicious man they saw in the area that night . What exactly did you see that night ?

Unidentified Woman: We seen a gentleman walking up the street, 12:15 , carrying a baby.

ALEXANDER: A baby in his arms.

Woman: A baby in his arms.

ALEXANDER: Was the baby wearing anything?

Woman: No. At that time from what we saw, the baby was just wearing a diaper, it looked like -- it appeared.

ALEXANDER: What did you think?

Woman: It was odd.

ALEXANDER: I spoke to Kansas City police late last night and they said they will not discuss specific details of this case, but they acknowledge they still have no suspects, no strong leads and, Savannah , are not ruling anything out.

GUTHRIE: All right. Peter Alexander in Kansas City , thank you. Attorney Joe Tacopina is representing Lisa 's parents Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin . Mr. Tacopina , good morning to you. And let's start with that issue of the cadaver dog getting a hit right by the mother's bed. How do you explain that?

Mr. JOE TACOPINA (Attorney for Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin): You know, it's a -- really, it's a red herring , Savannah . I've consulted with one of the top experts -- foremost experts in detection dogs in the United States who consults with the federal government and law enforcement all the time, and while he's a proponent of these dogs, these dogs are investigatory by nature, not evidentiary, meaning they're used to help in an investigation. These are not things that you bring someone to justice with. But more importantly, what he told me and what I heard from one of your experts in that -- in that clip was that what a cadaver looks for, smells for, is decomposition of human remains . And decomposition of human remains is when they say it's -- they discovered a dead body or scented a dead body , that's what they're smelling, decomposition of human remains . And what that could be aside from a dead body and skin peeling, Savannah , it could be fecal matter . And fecal matter , as we all know, is oftentimes found in the diaper of a 10-month-old baby. So you know, it could be toenails that, you know, you clip on your bed and they hit the rug or something. That is decomposition of human matter. So you know, it could be one of many, many things.


Mr. TACOPINA: I'll note that you saw the walk-through that you guys did yesterday, they didn't even clip any of that rug or carpeting in that bedroom.

GUTHRIE: Let's move on to another item that came out of the affidavit filed in connection with the search warrant here. It said that Lisa Irwinyour client, did not look behind her home initially because she was afraid of what she might find. Now from one standpoint you might say you could understand emotionally why she would feel that way, but could you also understand how it might arouse suspicion if she's desperately looking for her child, why she wouldn't look behind the home?

Mr. TACOPINA: No, she didn't say she wouldn't let us see. This is where, you know, what you don't have there is a sworn statement. That's a -- that's a rendition of some investigator. What Deborah Bradley was doing when they called 911, she was in a heap on the floor of her house trembling uncontrollably because of the disappearance of her daughter. And so what she said was she was afraid to go outside and look for anything. She was afraid what she would find. I mean, because she was trembling and afraid. She didn't say she didn't want to go look behind the house . You know, really, and even if you wanted to attach some sinister motive to that comment, that wouldn't even make sense. I mean, what, she'd kill the baby, put the baby behind the house and say, 'I don't want to go there and look, I'm afraid what I'd find?' But of course there was no baby there. What I think we need to focus on, Savannah , instead of all these little salacious details is what I just heard and what to me is watershed stuff. This is the stuff that investigations, hopefully, are made of and what will break this case. You have three independent witnesses, not people who knew each other, not one person who could be mistaken, three independent witnesses who at one time or another after midnight, after 2 in the morning, see a male, you know...


Mr. TACOPINA: ...with a frame that was small enough to go through that window carrying a baby in October with no -- nothing on but a diaper.

GUTHRIE: Well...

Mr. TACOPINA: You know, if that doesn't really raise all the red flags in the world, that's where this focus needs to be. And why, why three weeks later are we hearing about this for the first time ? Hopefully these leads are being followed up on.

GUTHRIE: All right.

Mr. TACOPINA: And that's what I really am concerned about, that we don't get sidetracked with these details.

GUTHRIE: All right. Joe Tacopina , we're out of time. We've got to leave it there. But thank you for your time. Appreciate it. It's now 7:19 and once again here's Matt.