updated 10/24/2011 AT 10:00 AM ET
•originally published 10/24/2011 AT 10:45 AM ET
Was the man seen walking post-midnight near the home of missing 11-month-old Lisa Irwin carrying a baby that did not belong to him?
Police won’t say, and Lisa’s parents don’t know. But that report, along with a second report of a man carrying a baby a short distance away around 4 a.m. on Oct. 4 – the time that Lisa was reported missing from her crib – is “unbelievably substantial,” says the attorney for parents Deborah Bradley, 25, and Jeremy Irwin, 29.
“When you have two independent witnesses making that same observation a mile apart,” attorney Joe Tacopina tells PEOPLE, “that’s something that cannot be discounted.”
Bradley and Irwin joined a candlelight vigil outside their home Sunday evening, as police remained mum about the details of their nearly 3-week-old investigation, including the news revealed Friday that a cadaver dog had picked up the scent of decomposition last week in the parent’s bedroom.
Lawyer Sees a Red Herring
Tacopina says the scent may be nothing more than fecal matter from a diaper. “For me, that’s a bit of a red herring in this case,” he says. “It doesn’t weaken my conviction 1 percent that Deborah and Jeremy had nothing to do with this.”
In an earlier interview with PEOPLE, the Kansas City couple said they have been accused during questioning by police in their daughter’s disappearance, and Tacopina says they have no idea how seriously police are taking the reported sightings.
Bradley put her daughter down at 6:40 p.m. Oct. 3 and, after a night at home drinking wine with a neighbor, does not recall checking on her before going to bed around 10:30 p.m. Lisa was gone when Irwin returned home from work about 3:45 a.m.
The parents suspect a break-in through a damaged front window, and a neighbor who lives several doors down said she saw an unknown man carrying an infant after midnight. Police who interviewed the neighbor previously have said their search for leads has yielded no answers.
Surveillance Video Footage
The second report of a man carrying a baby about 4 a.m. further away was fueled Sunday when ABC News) aired a gas station surveillance video, showing a far-off figure walking near a wooded area at about 2:30 a.m.
“I’m not saying they’re not following up the leads,” Tacopina says of police. “What I’m saying is that Deborah and Jeremy don’t know what they’re doing to follow up on these leads, and they should be in the loop.”
“They spent an awful lot of time attacking Deborah and Jeremy and not a lot of time informing the public – but more importantly, informing the family – what kind of progress the investigation is making,” he says.
“And by investigation, I mean recovery effort. These officers are supposed to be treating these people as two parents who are looking for their baby. They have to still be open to the possibility that these are grieving parents.”