Sometimes in the confusion and rush for information in the early part of a case, things get overlooked. Interviews conducted by reporters are often edited for time or the euphoria of the scoop overshadows the detailed questions that need to be asked. With those things considered, I thought several things that came out early in the disappearance of Lisa Irwin merit reexamination.
I reached out to Mike Thompson for just that reason. If you remember, Mike is one of what I think may be two credible sightings in the overnight hours that Lisa went missing. The first interesting sighting, for me, is the 12:15 report by neighbors on Chelsea Street. The surveillance video at the BP gas station has become what many of us feel as nothing.
When I called Thompson, he was most cooperative. I wanted to meet him at the intersection of NE 48th St. and N Randolph so he could show me the exact locations of what he saw just after 4 a.m. on the morning of October 4, 2011.
We met today. A much colder day than the lower 50's the night Lisa went missing. But that night was cool enough a baby should have had more than just a diaper on.
Mike was getting off of work driving due south on his motorcycle on Hwy 435 taking the off ramp at NE 48th St. in Kansas City, Missouri. As he slowed down to turn west on NE 48th St., he saw a man walking from the south side of 48th, crossing the road, and heading north on N. Randolph. Mike stopped his motorcycle at the intersection. It was very well lit with street lights. By this time a man, carrying a baby was probably around 20 to 30 yards north of the intersection walking on N. Randolph. Mike says he hollered, "Are you okay?" The man turned toward Thompson, a baby clearly visible in his arms, only in a diaper, sitting straight up in his arms and alert. The man responded only with a nod.
Mike says the man had salt and pepper hair; short hair, but long enough for a comb. It was not a buzz cut. He is confident the man not only had a baby in his arms, but a live baby. The baby's body was clearly visible, not mistaken for a bag.
After he got the nonverbal response, Thompson recalls telling the man that he better get a coat or a blanket or something to that effect on the baby. He found it odd. Mike then drove off, westward down NE 48th Street to visit a cousin. The man continued to carry the baby north on N. Randolph.
Mike told his cousin what he saw but never thought much more about it for another week. As awareness of Lisa Irwin's disappearance increased over the week, Mike's cousin, told him he thought he should call the Kansas City police department (KCPD). He did.
Thompson says two KCPD detectives then visited his home some 90 miles from the sighting. Mike describes their reaction to his sighting as interested but not excited. As his observations were made public, the media onslaught began. Good Morning America took him out to dinner to woo him. He laughs and said I would have talked to them anyway.
Mike was shown photos by child advocate Gil Abeyta. In both Abeyta's presentation and the subsequent one by the KCPD when family former attorney Cyndy Short took him back to the KCPD, Thompson pointed to photos of James Brando, the estranged husband of then-next door neighbor Samantha Brando. Samantha has since filed for divorce and James is back living next door.
I met James Brando in early December 2011. At that time, some two months after Lisa's departure, his hair was short, close cropped. It is entirely possible that Thompson was not shown a photo of the man he saw that night and picked out someone who looked the closest.
Thompson says the man was wearing a white shirt and light colored pants. He guessed his height at around 5'7".
The direction that the man was heading, north on N. Randolph, was away from World's of Fun amusement park and certainly not in the direction of two abandoned cemetaries and adjacent areas that have been futilely searched. The direction the man was heading was to a residential area.
Thompson says he has seen photos of Jersey and the man he saw was not him. However, why would the person Thompson saw that night be on foot? It seems like it would have been someone that did not have transportation. By the streets, this location is three miles from the home of Jeremy Irwin and Deborah Bradley, Lisa's parents. If they walked the entire distance, it seems like a long way as well as dangerous to be spotted, if they did not have access to a vehicle.
Mike told me his heart really goes out to the family. He says he knows what he saw that night and wants to help in any way he can. Maybe by sharing this additional information publicly someone else who saw something that night will speak up, or if there is another explanation for a man walking with a baby, that man will step forward.