MADISON, Wis. – Audrey Seiler (search), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (search) student who faked her abduction, was sentenced Thursday to three years probation after she pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts.
Seiler read a statement during the hearing in which she attributed the ordeal to a severe state of depression that caused her to act irrationally.
"I'm taking care of myself now so some day people will see I'm still a girl to be proud of," said Seiler, who is in therapy.
Seiler's March disappearance touched off an intense search as TV played over and over footage from a surveillance camera that showed her leaving her off-campus building around 2:30 a.m. with no belongings.
She turned up four days later claiming she had been abducted at knifepoint, but her story began crumbling shortly after police examined the details she provided them. They later determined she faked the abduction because she was upset over her relationship with her boyfriend.
Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard described Seiler's conduct as narcissistic and said she selfishly and intentionally deceived police.
"She's not in court today because she's depressed ... She committed a series of selfish acts without regard for others," Blanchard said.
Seiler, 20, pleaded guilty to two counts of obstructing officers as part of a plea agreement. She nodded as Dane County Circuit Judge James Martin ticked off the conditions of her probation. They include reimbursing the Madison Police Department $250 a month during her probation, an amount that could increase to $400 a month if she graduates during her probation and gets a job.
Seiler, of Rockford, Minn., can have the charges expunged from her record if she completes her probation.
Her attorney, Randy Hopper, said the former college student began a spiral of depression after an aunt died before she transferred to UW-Madison.
She then began having problems with her boyfriend that exacerbated her troubles. Hopper claimed she had a breakdown and she had no idea what she was doing during the days she went missing.
"Everybody has different levels of coping skills. She probably discovered her coping skills weren't what she hoped they'd be," Hopper said.
After the hearing Seiler's mother, Stephanie, thanked the media, police and searchers for their efforts.
"The fact remains she was lost in a very real sense," she said.
Seiler's disappearance was made even more mysterious by a prior attack she reported to authorities in February. She claimed she was struck from behind by an unknown assailant and knocked unconscious. She said she was moved about a block or so from where she was attacked but was not sexually assaulted or robbed.
Hopper said Seiler still insisted that attack happened. Blanchard declined comment.
Dozens of volunteers from her hometown traveled to Madison in March, slogging through marshes and woods around campus looking for any sign of her. She turned up four days after her disappearance when someone saw her in a marsh near a state office building and called police.
Seiler told police she was held captive by a man with a knife and gave them a description so they could develop a composite sketch.
But police began gathering evidence that she had staged the abduction and finally announced two days after her discovery it was a hoax.
Detectives said they obtained a store videotape that showed her buying the knife, duct tape and rope they found near where she said she'd been held in the marsh. She confessed after she was confronted with the tape, authorities said.
A criminal complaint said she was upset with a fading relationship with her boyfriend.
"I'm just so messed up," she said, according to the complaint.