INDEPENDENCE, Kan. – BC-Missing Teen, 7th Ld-Writethru,0562
Authorities say missing teen's kidnapping story was a hoax
Eds: UPDATES thruout with quotes from family, authorities; DELETES outdated material.
By JOHN HANNA
Associated Press Writer
INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) -- A 16-year-old girl's story of being kidnapped at gunpoint from her family's driveway and then held in a white van for hours was a hoax, authorities said Thursday.
Police and FBI agents said Kelsey Stelting acknowledged Thursday morning that it never happened and said she instead spent the day alone not far from town.
The reported abduction around dawn Tuesday led Kansas officials to issue an Amber Alert, the FBI brought in 30 agents and other personnel to join the search, and officials in Oklahoma were notified to be on the lookout for a white van.
Kelsey was missing for about 15 hours before turning up at a stranger's home in her small southeast Kansas town. She said she had clobbered her assailant and was able to escape.
In reality, officials said, she jogged to an area southwest of Independence, called 911 to report that she had been abducted, and then stayed there alone.
"She said that all of the original statements she made regarding the abduction were false and that she acted alone," the law enforcement agencies said in a written statement.
Kelsey could be charged with filing a false police report, a misdemeanor, Police Chief Lee Bynum said. He said police will turn over reports to the county's juvenile prosecutor to decide. FBI agent Jeff Lanza said he didn't foresee any federal charges.
Authorities acknowledged having suspicions early on that the girl's story was false, and Bynum said that by the time she acknowledged lying, "it was not a surprise to me."
Lanza added: "Things weren't adding up. ... We couldn't find anything at all that corroborated her story."
Authorities would not say Thursday what motivated the girl to report a fake abduction. "That's between her (and) her family," Bynum said.
A family spokesman said the girl was sorry.
"Given her state of mind Kelsey didn't realize the consequences of her actions, which she wholeheartedly regrets," Tim Valentine said at a news conference. "We've all made mistakes, and Kelsey just happened to make hers under the glare of the spotlight."
He did not take questions after reading a brief statement.
Police on Wednesday released the tape and transcript of Kelsey's 911 call. She told the dispatcher that a man with a gun had approached her in the driveway of her home about 6:30 a.m., forced her to run several blocks as he followed, then forced her into a white van outside a lumber yard.
"To me it sounded like there was distress there as well, and that was the initial indication that she had been kidnapped, besides just the call itself -- the tone of her voice," Lanza said. "Sometimes tones can fool you, and I guess that was the case here."
Lanza said didn't believe the incident would hurt the integrity of the Amber Alert system.
But in Independence, which has about 9,400 residents, neighbor Richard Basham said the girl had embarrassed the town.
"It destroys the trust in a small community. It just deteriorates a small town's integrity," Basham said.