Recent Faked Abduction Claims
In the past few weeks, a series of faked abductions and false rape/abduction claims have surfaced. I have always found hoaxes of any sort to be fascinating—finding out what motivates one person to deceive another. In the case of faked abductions, often the “victim” does it for sympathy or attention; other times the story is given to cover up for illegal or embarrassing behavior. In many cases, people have reported a vehicle stolen and claimed that a child was also taken so that the police will make the report a priority. Here are a few recent cases:
Woman charged with making false abduction claim
By Gina Mace Beacon Journal
Apr 30, 2009
NORTON: A Wayne County woman who claims she was held captive for days and repeatedly raped now finds herself under arrest. Jessica A. Smith, 32, told Norton police she was abducted at gunpoint from an Eastern Road gas station, held against her will for four days and repeatedly raped. Smith made the claim April 12 to police who were called to the emergency room at Akron City Hospital. Authorities say they spent about 100 hours investigating her claims before concluding the story was made up. Smith made her initial appearance Wednesday before Barberton Municipal Judge Greg Macko on a fifth-degree felony charge of making false alarms. If convicted, she faces up to one year in prison. Authorities say Smith still says she was sexually assaulted in Akron between April 9 and 12, but has admitted she lied about the abduction.
A review of two days’ worth of surveillance video from the gas station, revealed that Smith had not visited the store, Norton Detective John Canterbury said. Canterbury said detectives believe Smith needed to explain to her fiance where she had been for the weekend and why she was returning his car damaged, so she cooked up the phony abduction. ‘‘Here’s the problem,’’ Canterbury said. ‘‘We have a lot of crimes we could have been working on for the citizens of Norton. We had people calling us about their cases and had to tell them that another case has taken precedence, only to find out it’s a bogus call.’’ Smith has been released on bond. She is scheduled to return to court May 12.
Plot Thickens for Man Who Gave False Report
May 2- Shawn Ivory opened a can of worms Wednesday when he gave a bogus report to a 911 dispatcher, claiming his 1-year-old son had been abducted. At least that’s what Alachua County Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Maynard said Friday afternoon, shortly after Ivory, 37, of Gainesville, was arrested at his home on the charge of grand theft because of a stolen motorcycle found in his garage. On Wednesday, Ivory claimed someone had stolen another motorcycle – from him.While reporting the alleged theft, he told the dispatcher the thieves had taken his boy in a black GMC Yukon.It was a false report, Maynard said, designed to get a quicker response in finding his motorcycle. And it worked. The Sheriff’s Office scrambled. Within minutes, 30 to 35 member of the department were searching for the child.Two helicopters were sent up, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement began preparations for an Amber Alert, neighboring counties were alerted, and Gainesville police joined the search.
Attempted Abduction Fabricated
WEST MELBOURNE, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) – May 1- West Melbourne Police say an attempted abduction which was reported on Sunday has turned out to be a fabrication. A nine year old child reported that a man had repeatedly attempted to lure him into a car by offering him a ride. A composite picture was created and the public was informed. On Tuesday, police investigators learned that the incident never occurred. The child admitted to making the incident up. The false report is under investigation. Detectives hope to interview the child to determine his motive. Possible criminal charges are possible, pending investigation and evaluation of all of the facts.
Girl May Face Charge After Kidnap Claim
Sacramento Teen Accused Of Making Up Story
May 6, 2009
SACRAMENTO, Calif.—A 17-year-old girl accused of falsely claiming someone tried to kidnap her may face a criminal charge after police spent hours investigating the case. A police report said the south Natomas teen, who lives in the area of Pebblewood Drive and Mill Oak Way, called 911 by cell phone at about 8 a.m. Tuesday to report an attack. Police eventually found the girl and determined she made up the story, the report said. No arrest was made, but a criminal complaint has been prepared and is set to be forwarded to District Attorney Jan Scully, who will decide whether to prosecute the girl on a charge of filing a false police report. Authorities added that no motive was found for the alleged false report. The girl’s name was not released because she is a minor.
Another high-profile case occurred in December 2007, when a pregnant Toledo lawyer was reported missing on December 5 after she failed to pick up her son from a day care center. Karyn McConnell Hancock’s frantic husband soon took to the media, pleading for the return of his wife, who is six months pregnant. While supporters held prayer vigils and passed out missing persons fliers, police and volunteers scoured Toledo for Hancock. She was found three days later, near a Georgia amusement park 700 miles from her home.
Hancock told police that she had been kidnapped in front of a downtown Toledo court building and driven to Georgia at gunpoint by two white men and one black woman. During her terrifying journey, she was blindfolded, bound, and allowed to eat once per day. Her kidnappers threatened to kill her and her unborn child if she tried to escape. They eventually released her, and she was able to flag down a motorist who called 911. It was a baffling crime. And, as Hancock admitted, it was all a lie. Toledo police stated that “The investigation has conclusively shown that Ms. McConnell Hancock was not kidnapped….She traveled to Georgia alone and by her own free will.”
Perhaps the most famous faked abduction was Jennifer Wilbanks, 32, who vanished from her Duluth, Georgia, home in April 2005. The long-distance runner, who was to be married in less than a week, was last seen preparing to go jogging. Wilbanks soon became the focus of a nationwide search which ended four days later when Wilbanks called 911 and her family from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Through sobs and stammers, she reported that she had been kidnapped and raped by a Hispanic man with a gun, along with a Caucasian woman. She eventually admitted to FBI investigators that she had not been kidnapped nor raped, and had simply left town on the spur of the moment because she “needed some time alone.”
Official statistics on the numbers of false kidnappings are not kept, though I have researched the topic for years following the hoaxed abductions of Dar Heatherington (a Canadian politician who vanished while on a trip to Montana in 2003 and reappeared a week later claiming she had been abducted and sexually assaulted) and Audrey Seiler.
Hoaxed abductions occur far more often than most people realize. Though high-profile cases such as those of Hancock and Wilbanks are widely reported, lesser-known faked abductions occur about once a week somewhere in the United States. Every hour that police waste searching for a person who lied about being abducted is time that could have been spent solving cases and he
lping victims of real crimes. Police investigations are often very expensive, in some cases wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. Those who file false reports are rarely prosecuted, and often they are treated as victims instead of criminals.
While there is real damage done by these hoaxes, at least one concern seems unfounded: Especially in cases of false reports of rape, victims’ advocate groups and rape crisis officials often worry that the faked story will discourage actual victims of sexual assault from coming forward, though there is no evidence that this is true. Police and the public know that just because one rape or abduction claim turns out to be false doesn’t mean that later claims by different victims are also false, and there seems to be no research or studies demonstrating that police are more likely to doubt real victims (or take their claims less seriously) following the revelation of an earlier hoax.