It's been more than 20 years since the 5-month-old disappeared from her crib in her family's Florida home — and now two women say they could be that girl

By Adam Carlson and Bill Hewitt
March 16, 2018 10:00 AM

Has missing baby Sabrina Aisenberg at last been found?

More than 20 years after the 5-month-old disappeared from her crib in her family’s Florida home in the middle of the night, the one thing that has remained certain has been her absence.

For years Sabrina’s whereabouts — even whether she is still alive — have remained a mystery.

But now her parents reportedly say two women have come forward, each of whom believes they might be the adult Sabrina.

These developments will be the subject of Friday’s 20/20 on ABC. The episode is exclusively previewed above.

According to the network, both women are undergoing DNA testing. The results are pending.

Meanwhile, Sabrina’s mother and father, Marlene and Steve Aisenberg, say they do not believe their youngest child is dead.

“We hope every day,” Steve told ABC News. “Hope is what keeps us going and moving forward.”

In the exclusive preview from Friday’s 20/20, the Aisenberg parents discuss being approached by one of the two women about her belief that she may be related to them.

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Sabrina Aisenberg
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Marlene said she awoke one day to a heart-racing message from the woman “that she may be Sabrina.” The note came via Facebook in November, according to ABC.

“Basically it was like, ‘I don’t wanna give false hope,’ but she hasn’t felt like she belonged where she was,” Marlene said.

According to her and Steve, the woman has several reasons to feel there may be secrets in her past, including the fact that she has “no baby pictures” before the age of 1. Her birthday is similar to Sabrina’s and she is 20 years old.

The woman also learned, according to the Aisenbergs, that she has been using the same Social Security number as a woman who lives in California.

The revelation of Sabrina’s fate so many years later would mark the final twist in a case that once made national headlines — not just for the details of the disappearance but also because the Aisenberg family soon fell under suspicion.

The Case So Far

Their ordeal began on the morning of Nov. 24, 1997. Sometime between midnight and 6:42 a.m., Sabrina, the youngest of three kids, disappeared from her crib in her family’s suburban home in Valrico.

Marlene made the discovery when she walked into the kitchen that morning and noticed the garage and a side door open. Within hours Hillsborough County, Florida, sheriff’s deputies, along with the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, were combing the area.

Authorities immediately searched the family’s two cars and closely questioned the parents, who insisted an intruder must have snatched their child. To some extent the scrutiny simply reflected accepted investigative procedures. But in this case investigators appeared to view the Aisenbergs with particular skepticism.

“The police told me that very first day that they thought I had done it,” Marlene told PEOPLE in 2001. “A policeman looked me right in the eye and said, ‘We think you know what happened.’ ”

Hoping to build a case, law enforcement sought and was granted court permission to bug the Aisenbergs’ kitchen and bedroom.

Detectives began eavesdropping on the couple roughly three weeks after Sabrina went missing. In all, they listened in for 79 days, compiling some 2,600 conversations on audiotapes. Meanwhile officials were dropping broad hints in the press about their suspicions concerning the Aisenbergs.

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In June 1999 the family moved to Bethesda, Maryland, where Steve grew up, hoping to escape the notoriety. The standoff came to a head on Sept. 9, 1999, when officers arrested and handcuffed Steve at work and took Marlene into custody at their home.

In Tampa, amid much fanfare, a federal prosecutor appeared at a news conference with a TV-ready blowup image of the indictment to trumpet the break in the case.

Officially the Aisenbergs were charged only with lying to police about their involvement in the disappearance of Sabrina. But the indictment, which relied almost exclusively on the wiretaps, contained such supposedly explosive evidence that there seemed little doubt the couple was accused of killing their daughter.

At a bond hearing, a prosecutor further claimed the tapes had even captured Steven talking about being high on cocaine the night Sabrina vanished.

Powerful stuff — except it wasn’t true.

In a scalding 63-page opinion released in February 2001, a magistrate judge agreed that the tapes were virtually worthless: a “canvas,” he said, “of nebulous conversations” that did not establish a case against the Aisenbergs.

More damning, the judge described the detectives’ interpretation of conversations as “pure fiction” and asserting that they had “deliberately misled” the court. Prosecutors had no choice but to drop all the charges.

Still, Sabrina’s disappearance remains unsolved.

Though the Aisenbergs told ABC they have decided not to be in contact with Hillsborough sheriff’s officials, the lead investigator on the case said, “We are still currently focused on trying to find Sabrina Aisenberg and bring this case to a resolution.”

In Maryland, Sabrina’s parents told ABC they keep a bedroom for her, updated to reflect the fact that were she to return, she would be a young adult.

“I dream of our life the way it was with all three children in our house,” Steve previously told PEOPLE. “And then I wake up and wish I didn’t have to.”

20/20‘s episode on the Sabrina Aisenberg case airs Friday (10 p.m. ET) on ABC.