Experts estimate that faked abductions occur about once a week in the United States — far more often than most people realize.
It’s a crucial issue because victims who fake a kidnapping scenario take police time and resources away from real victims. Every hour detectives spend searching for someone who is not in danger could have been spent searching for someone who is really in danger.
In February, friends of 38-year-old Thelma Williams called 911 after they saw photos and videos posted on her Facebook page that showed her tied up and gagged with what appeared to be a pair of women’s underwear — along with threatening messages that seemed to indicate that she was being held captive.
When police responded to her Ohio home, they found her loosely bound with her hands behind her back and clothes ripped. But soon, her story began to unravel, and she eventually told police that “she fabricated the attack to get attention,” according to the sheriff.
She was sentenced to time served and credit for the 10 days she was in jail after her arrest.
Recently, Dr. Oz tackled the topic on his show along with forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner, who said that an unhealthy need for attention often motivates a person to perform a fake abduction.
In 2016, Samantha Martinez made headlines after police say she faked her own kidnapping in order to make her boyfriend jealous.
After she “disappeared” in November 2016, her boyfriend told police that he’d received several text messages from an unknown number saying that “they had the victim and were going to keep her captive and do physical harm to her” unless he paid a ransom, according to an arrest affidavit.
Martinez was at a hospital, where she claimed that she had been sexually assaulted. But when detectives questioned her, Martinez said she had been staying with a friend and had sex with him in order to get back at her boyfriend.
Dr. Welner told Dr. Oz that fake abductees are often motivated by a break-up — either because they want to separate from the relationship, or because they want sympathy from their loved ones and want them to stay. He explained that the “victim” engages in the behavior to get sympathy, or to cover up for something illegal or embarrassing.
In January 2017, Janelle Phillips reported that she had been kidnapped and robbed near St. Louis University. She later admitted to providing false information to police, and said that the abduction never happened.In 2013, Rogelio Andaverde’s wife was stunned when two masked men burst into the couple’s Texas home and “kidnapped” her husband.
Later, Andaverde admitted to police that he had staged the kidnapping because he wanted to go out partying. He pleaded guilty to making a false report to police — a misdemeanor — and was sentenced to only 29 days in jail.
Welner went on to explain that the region of the brain called the amygdala, which controls lying, can become desensitized in people who lie on a regular basis.
So how do we know if we’re talking to a pathological liar?
“We can notice when folks have no qualms about lying about the little things,” Welner said. He also said that “brazenness and outlandishness” of lies are another red flag, as well as “someone who has no qualms about emotionally manipulating someone close to them to an extreme degree.”
While the fake victims’ reasons may vary, there is one common thread linking the cases: All of them received very lenient punishments. Despite the fact that the investigations can waste massive amounts of police time and taxpayer money, fake victims are rarely prosecuted.
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Main photo: Image from video of Thelma Williams that was posted on Facebook [DailyMail.com (screenshot)]