KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Isabelle Zehnder reporting) — Friday’s news that a cadaver dog hit for the scent of a deceased human in missing Missouri baby Lisa Irwin’s parents’ bedroom created a media frenzy and left many people with an overwhelming sense of fear that something horrible happened to Baby Lisa.
They’ve heard experts say a positive hit by a cadaver dog is nearly always accurate. They’ve also heard Lisa’s parents, Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin’s, lawyers downplay the finding, more on that below.
Baby Lisa’s parents, Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin, consented to a search of their home located at 3620 N Lister Avenue on Mon., Oct. 17. It was during that search that the cadaver dog hit on Bradley’s bedroom floor.
This, among other findings mentioned in a police affidavit filed last week, prompted police to request a warrant for a more “extensive, intrusive” search of the Irwin/Bradley home, which a judge granted last Tuesday, prompting Wednesday’s search.
The parents’ lawyers have downplayed the cadaver dog hit. Their local attorney, Cynthia Short, said the finding could be erroneous and something that may have been in the house for years, and their high-profile New York lawyer Joe Tacopina said in one breath that cadaver dogs are trained to hit on the scent of a dead body, and then said that the dog could have hit on fecal matter from a dirty diaper or even toenail clippings.
Read: Baby Lisa Irwin: Case of ‘he said, she said’ re cadaver dog issue (Video).
Findings of Wednesday’s search have not been released. Many say they continue holding out hope Baby Lisa is alive, but fear the news may mean she’s not.
Is there cause for concern? Is all the hype about the cadaver dog warranted? Could this be significant in Baby Lisa’s case? Read what a few experts and the parents’ lawyers have to say below .
Lawyers question why police didn’t remove carpet
Deborah and Jeremy’s attorneys, Cynthia Short and Joe Tacopina, questioned why police did not remove at least pieces of carpet from the parents’ bedroom after the dog detected a dead body had been there.
A few questions that arose were could a comforter, for example, have been lying on the floor, and could cadaver dogs have received a positive hit for human decomposition on the comforter?
And if that comforter had been removed from the floor and preserved for forensic testing, is it possible that once the comforter was removed the dogs no longer hit in the area on the floor? Hence, no need to remove portions of carpet?
When asked about the cadaver dog hit and the issue of why carpet wasn’t removed from the bedroom, Kansas City Police spokesman Capt. Steve Young said in an email Monday that he’s unable to comment on what was done during the search warrant.
Old house, dirty diapers, or toenails?
While the public agonizes over the cadaver dog hit, wondering if a horrible event took place in her parents’ bedroom the night Baby Lisa vanished, Short and Tacopina say there’s really nothing to worry about.
They are downplaying the find, saying it could mean a number of things.
Short says the cadaver dog development could be misleading detectives because the scent could be decades old.
The house was built in 1958, according to Zillow.com and Realtor.com.
Short says the age of the home could explain the hit, citing that cadaver dogs have successfully hit on scents of decomposition in a 28-year-old home.
Tacopina said he thinks the positive hit could simply be old diapers or even toenails.
That raised some questions Monday:
If the dog was hitting on dirty diapers or toenails, then wouldn’t it have hit in other areas of the house?
Is the parents’ bedroom the only place where the family has kept dirty diapers or clipped their toenails?
Tacopina said on The Today Show Monday, “It’s a red herring, Savannah.” He said dogs are only used as a tool and not used in trial.
Experts, Tacopina said, have told him that “what a cadaver dog looks for, smells for, is decomposition of human remains and decomposition of human remains is what they say is when they discover a dead body, or the scent of 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?” Tacopina asked. He answered his question saying, “Savannah, that could be fecal matter, and fecal matter as we all know is often times found in the diaper of a 10-month-old baby. So it could be toenails that you clip on your bed that hit the rug or something. That is decomposition of human matter so it could be one of many, many things.”
Some have questioned how long a person would have to be dead before a cadaver dog could hit on the scent.
Retired FBI Profiler Clint Van Zant said on The Today Show Monday, “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.”
Former FBI Agent Brad Garrett said the dogs have a great accuracy record and said, “In studies done of cadaver dogs where the dog has direct access to the scent and it’s reasonably fresh – it’s above 90 percent.”
Criminal Profiler Pat Brown said cadaver dogs are used as an investigative tool, not an evidentiary tool. They help lead police to evidence that may help them solve their case. Brown said, “It is the totality of the evidence.”
Parents well represented
Less than two weeks after their baby went missing an anonymous wealthy benefactor, known to the family, offered to fund a $100,000 reward for the safe return of Baby Lisa, or for the conviction of the person who took her.
The benefactor also paid for defense lawyers – Kansas City attorney Cynthia Short and high-profile New York attorney, Joe Tacopina – to represent these parents in their baby’s disappearance.
Some have ventured to guess that the wealthy benefactor is affiliated with a media news outlet. This has yet to be determined as the persons offering the money wish to remain anonymous.
Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact the TIP Hotline at (816) 474-TIPS.
Continuous news coverage in missing Baby Lisa case
Want to follow this & other missing persons’ cases?
Click on SUBSCRIBE link above for instant updates. Visit my Blog, follow me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter.
Baby Lisa on Facebook: Help Find Lisa Irwin
Slideshow: Photos of Baby Lisa