Archive for Saturday, August 2, 2003

Topekan’s bond set at $100,000 in hoax case

August 2, 2003

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— A woman with a history of mental illness who is accused of perpetrating a hoax on an Indiana couple by claiming to be their long-lost daughter was ordered held on $100,000 bond Friday.

Shawnee County District Judge Thomas Conklin also called Donna Lynette Walker a flight risk, based on her frequent moves across the nation. Jailed in Kansas as a fugitive, she is charged in Indiana with felony identity deception and misdemeanor false reporting.

During a brief court hearing, Conklin cited Walker's extensive psychiatric care, including visits this year to the Osawatomie State Hospital for the mentally ill and outpatient care at a Topeka behavioral clinic. He also said she has a least one conviction on record for creating a false alarm.

"She's, in my opinion, a potential flight risk based on what I think her mental condition is," Conklin said.

Walker, clad in a dark blue jumpsuit and shackled at the arms and legs, sat silently in the courtroom as her lawyer spoke on her behalf.

The attorney, Billy Rork, requested a lower bond, saying Walker was on medical disability. He also noted that she voluntarily turned herself in and was not a flight risk.

The judge disagreed and also asked that Walker sign a release for her medical records to be turned over to the court. Those records will be sealed. Conklin set Walker's next court appearance for 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Rork said he would file a motion seeking to have Walker's bond reduced. Rork said Walker would only be able to go free if someone else paid the bond.

Walker, 35, has said she only was trying to assist in the search for Shannon Marie Sherrill, who vanished in 1986 when she was 6 years old while playing hide-and-seek near the family's home outside Indianapolis.

Dorothy Sherrill, the mother of the missing girl, said she was relieved to hear of Walker's arrest and hoped she would be sent back to Indiana to "get everything she deserves." Despite the alleged hoax, Sherrill said, "I'm not going to give up on my daughter."

Authorities said that last weekend, Walker called the girl's parents and claimed she was their daughter. Sherrill's family members were crushed, and her father, Mike, reduced to tears, when they learned Wednesday that it was a lie.

Rork said Walker would fight extradition from Kansas to Indiana. He said Walker contacted authorities because she was not certain that any criminal activity had taken place.

"I haven't been convinced that a crime has occurred," Rork said.

He said he also questions which state would have jurisdiction, if a crime did occur, because the telephone calls were made by Walker in Kansas.

Todd Meyer, the prosecutor in Boone County, Ind., said on "Good Morning America" Friday that Walker's account was a "complete fabrication" and that he did not think she had any legitimate information to offer about the case.

"I had to review all the facts as they were coming in very quickly, and it's very clear to me at this point in time that Donna Walker acted in a criminal context," Meyer said. He said Walker has represented herself as the lost child "as well as many other individuals."

Under Kansas law and an interstate compact, the governor has no choice but to sign an extradition request from another state if the documents from that state are in their proper form. Extradition hearings in district court are uncommon, but the process still can take up to a month even in routine cases.

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