Published April 02, 2004
ROCKFORD, Minn. – When Audrey Seiler (search) disappeared in Madison, Wis., dozens of people from her hometown drove 250 miles to look for her. On Friday, they watched Madison police go on live television to say they thought Seiler had made the whole thing up.
Sue Elsen, who runs Rockwell's Family Cafe with her husband, said she felt sorry for Seiler's family, even for Seiler.
"She's a lost little soul," Elsen said.
Several of Elsen's customers went to Madison to look for Seiler.
Lisa Wangstad wasn't as forgiving, and noted that police say Seiler bought duct tape and rope just before disappearing.
"She just made a fool of us," said Wangstad, a bartender at The Red Vest.
Wangstad, whose daughter attended high school gym class with Seiler, said the hoax would make it harder in the future for real kidnapping victims. And she predicted a difficult time for Seiler's parents.
"I don't know how I would react if it was my daughter. I really don't," Wangstad said. "I would be ashamed."
Around Rockford, stores still displayed signs saying "Welcome Home Audrey" even though she and her family still hadn't returned from Wisconsin. Yellow ribbons are still tied to nearly every mailbox and fencepost along her family's cul-de-sac. And pink ribbons still decorate the nearby bridge across the Crow River (search).
As part of the community's outpouring, the local Domino's Pizza sent 25 pizzas to a candlelight celebration attended by at least 150 people at the Seiler family home on Wednesday. Domino's manager Skip Herdklotz said it was easy to give Seiler the benefit of the doubt.
"It's hard not to trust her," he said. "A very bright student, well-liked in the community, a straight-A student in college ... I'm just happy she's returned. That's the most important thing, that she's back with her family."