GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. – A couple's dramatic account of newborn sextuplets turned out Tuesday to be nothing more than an elaborate scam.
Sarah and Kris Everson's story about their six babies' births had holes in it from the very start — from their mysterious withholding of information for more than a month to the unanimous response of area hospitals that they had no such newborns.
Authorities said the couple admitted Tuesday evening that the entire thing was a hoax aimed at tapping the generosity of others to pay their mounting bills.
"I have never dealt with anything like this," said Aaron Ambrose, the police chief here in Grain Valley, where the couple lives. "The level of fraud like this involving people, I have not. When we hear of fraud, we think of bank fraud or confidence schemes."
Gary Bradley, the city administrator, said charges against the Eversons were forthcoming. Prosecutors had not yet determined how much the couple profited from the scam, or whether they would qualify for charges beyond the municipal level.
The Eversons — the man is 33, the woman 45 — claimed to have given birth March 8. In the weeks since, they had been earning the trust of others in the community with whom they've shared their story and appealed for assistance.
The tale exploded in the local spotlight Monday when The Examiner in Independence ran on its front page a large photograph of the couple holding six one-piece baby outfits.
Those who heard the Eversons' sad story of tight finances and the unexpected arrival of six infants had set up a Web site for the family and began soliciting contributions — including a van, washer and dryer, cash and gift certificates.
Sarah Everson showed an Associated Press reporter the tiny nursery that was awaiting her new arrivals, complete with six baskets of gifts from her husband's employer. And she showed off an album titled "Mamma's Miracles, Daddy Brag Book," which included pictures of her in maternity clothes, her baring a huge pregnant-looking midsection, and even sonogram images she claimed were of her infants.
She described the surgeries two of her baby sons were awaiting Wednesday, and how the entire story of her children's births was being kept secret by a court order enacted because a member of her husband's family was trying to kill the Eversons and their new sextuplets.
"I'm so afraid they're not going to make it," she sobbed. "Nobody understands how hard this is. I know that they're here. I know what I had to go through to get them here."
All a lie.
Sarah Everson said a detective begin questioning her Tuesday evening. Bradley and Ambrose said the Eversons went to the police station and were interviewed for about an hour, during which they revealed the story was a scam. They were released pending charges.
"They said they needed the money to pay bills," Ambrose said. "It was definitely about money."
Court documents show Kris Everson was sued March 4 — days before he and his wife claimed their babies were born — by a real estate company for rent. The suit was dismissed March 20.
The Eversons said they met over a local chat line in March 2005, and months later Sarah Everson became pregnant. She said she learned of her condition when she went to her obstetrician for a birth control shot, which the doctor said could not be given because she was pregnant.
The Eversons married March 23 — the third time for the groom, according to their marriage license, the fourth for the bride.
This is apparently not the first time Sarah Everson has claimed a multiple-birth pregnancy. David Raasch, an Independence engineer who knows the woman and her former husband through Maywood Baptist Church, said several years ago she also claimed to have been pregnant with at least six children. She eventually claimed she lost them all to miscarriage, he said.
"Some people had suspected her story was false prior to that," Raasch said. "But that sealed the deal for a lot of people."
Reached by phone late Tuesday, Sarah Everson offered no explanation for the hoax.
"I'm not talking to anybody right now," she said, "because nobody gets it."