Archive for Saturday, September 24, 2005

Charge filed in phone hoax that prompted search

September 24, 2005

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— A Kentucky woman was charged Friday with telling authorities that she had been kidnapped, raped, shot and stabbed near Kansas City International Airport - when, prosecutors said, she had never left her home.

Elizabeth E. Crews, 18, of Nicholasville, Ky., was charged with making a false report, a misdemeanor that carries maximum penalties of six months in jail or a $500 fine.

But Crews could find herself facing a much larger bill. Platte County prosecutor Eric Zahnd said he had asked the agencies involved in the hours-long search on Sept. 17 to submit their costs - and if Crews is convicted, Zahnd said she could be ordered to pay back those agencies.

"We don't know how long it will be before we know all of those costs," Zahnd said in a telephone interview from his office in Platte City.

According to a court document accompanying the charge, Crews was supposed to fly to Kansas City on Sept. 17 to meet her boyfriend and his mother. Instead, she called him and told him she had been abducted, assaulted and dumped in a ditch near the airport. The boyfriend's mother then called 911.

Authorities have said that Crews and the boyfriend knew each other from the Internet but had never met.

In the court document, Platte County Sheriff's Sgt. David Thornburg wrote that Crews repeated her story when county dispatchers called her cell phone and later told Thornburg that she could not call 911. Verizon Wireless employees were able to trace the call's origin to Kentucky, and Thornburg wrote that he was still on the phone with Crews when a Nicholasville officer got to her home.

The search involved eight local, county and state agencies, including the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and traffic at Kansas City International had to be diverted to allow a Kansas City Police Department helicopter to search in the area.

"Law enforcement resources were already stretched very thin" because of Hurricane Katrina, Zahnd said. "The Missouri Highway Patrol had already sent a number of officers to Louisiana and Mississippi, and then had to send a number of its officers to this search. It wasn't just her boyfriend that was the victim - it was the police and other emergency agencies involved."

Crews does not have a listed telephone number in Nicholasville.

A warrant was issued for her arrest, with bond set at $5,000. Nicholasville Police Lt. John Branscum said his department had not yet received the warrant by midafternoon Friday.

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