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Missing baby's brothers to be interviewed again

October 26, 2011

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KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Kansas City police plan to re-interview the two older brothers of a missing Kansas City baby Friday as part of the investigation into her disappearance three weeks ago.

A specialist trained in interviewing children will talk to Lisa Irwin's brothers, The Kansas City Star reported Wednesday. Police spokesman Capt. Steve Young said police also planned to collect DNA from the boys to compare to unknown DNA found during the investigation and possibly eliminate some as evidence. Such samples can be obtained using a cotton swab inside the mouth.

Police had said they hadn't been able to talk to the boys since Oct. 4, when parents Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin reported 10-month-old Lisa missing. The boys, ages 5 and 8, are Bradley and Irwin's sons from previous relationships.

Police have not discussed their investigation but have said they have no suspects in Lisa's disappearance. Investigators have cleared hundreds of tips and leads and have searched the family's home, several wooded areas near the home, a landfill and a nearby industrial park.

Cynthia Short, the family's attorney, said Wednesday that police recently asked to interview the boys a second time and the parents "have had to weigh the best interest of their small children against the desire of the law enforcement to bring their boys in for a second interview."

The couple chose to allow the second interviews after they were assured they "would be done in a safe place and would be done by a specially trained social worker," Short said. She said they "should be done by the end of the week."

Interviewing children a second time in an ongoing investigation would not be unusual, though in an "ideal circumstance one interview should be enough," said Victor Vieth, director of the National Child Protection Training Center at Winona State University in Minnesota, which trains forensic specialists to interview children.

"You have to be well-trained, you have to be cautious. You should be recording the interview so you can show conclusively that everything was done appropriately," Vieth said. "The ultimate check though on the veracity of the children's statement ... is can you take their statement and go out and corroborate it."

Linda Cordisco Steele, a child forensic interview specialist with the National Children's Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Ala., said while she was a "little bit surprised" that police had not talked to the boys since Oct. 4, there are no strict guidelines about how much time should elapse between such interviews.

"The thinking is the closer to the event and the closer together the interviews the more likely the information is not going to be lost or forgotten or contaminated," she said.

More interviews could be warranted if the investigation is active "and things come up," she said.

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