Published April 14, 2004
MADISON, Wis. – A college student accused of faking her own kidnapping last month was charged Wednesday with lying to police in what they suggested was a desperate attempt to get her boyfriend's attention.
Audrey Seiler (search), a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Wisconsin (search), was charged with two misdemeanor counts of obstructing officers. Each charge carries up to nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Seiler disappeared from her off-campus apartment March 27 without her coat or purse. She was discovered curled in a fetal position in a marsh four days later, and told police that a man had abducted her at knifepoint.
But police concluded Seiler made up the story after obtaining a store videotape that showed her buying the knife, duct tape, rope and cold medicine she claimed her abductor used to restrain her. Seiler confessed after she was confronted with the tape, according to authorities.
"I set up everything. I'm just so messed up. I'm sorry," they quoted her as saying. But she later recanted the statement, insisting she had been abducted.
Hundreds of people from Madison and Seiler's hometown searched for her after she disappeared, and her claim about an armed man touched off a major manhunt that authorities said cost the police about $96,000.
Her first court appearance was scheduled for Thursday, but her attorney was expected to appear in her place.
Lawyer Randy Hopper would not say Wednesday whether she would contest the charges. He called Seiler a "model student, a model citizen."
The criminal complaint depicts Seiler as a young woman upset by a fading relationship with her boyfriend, Ryan Fisher.
Friends said the two had been fighting, and Seiler's roommate, Heather Thue, told officers that Fisher did not pay as much attention to Seiler as she wanted. Seiler's mother told police her daughter had not been herself lately and was "extremely needy" of Fisher.
Three days before she disappeared, her laptop was used to log onto Fisher's e-mail account and read exchanges "with romantic overtones" between him and another woman, according to the complaint.
A message left at Seiler's home in Rockford, Minn., was not immediately returned. There was no answer at the campus telephone number for Fisher, Seiler's boyfriend.
Hopper said Seiler was home with her parents and receiving "medical care and the care and support that she needs from her family."
Seiler had also reported an unexplained attack in February, saying she was struck from behind and left unconscious. But the complaint does not say whether police believe that attack was also fabricated.
According to police, one woman spotted Seiler on a bike path near the marsh on March 29, 30 and 31. On March 31, the woman said, she saw Seiler lying in the fetal position. When she asked how Seiler was, Seiler sat up and said she was OK and liked to come to the marsh after class to relax.