An investigation by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department into a recent incident involving an alleged attempted abduction has revealed no such incident took place.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott announced Wednesday that the teen who initially claimed she was the victim of an abduction foiled by her dog had made up the story. Sheriff Lott said he’s exploring whether legal action can be taken to address the resources expended throughout the investigation.
On Feb. 26, Richland County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched Heron Glen Drive to reports of an attempted abduction just after 9 p.m. When they arrived, they were met by a 14-year-old and her mother, who both said they had seen a would-be kidnapper and a white van speeding away from their home. The teen added the alleged suspect was a mask-wearing black man dressed in all black, whose plan was foiled when her dog attacked.
The department immediately deployed resources to the area in hopes of identifying the accused abductors and their vehicle. After several unsuccessful days, the department reached out to the media in hopes of seeking help from the public to find the van.
Investigators spent more than a week following dozens of tips and leads called in by the public. After they exhausted all leads, they again questioned the teen. That’s when investigators learned that only the teen had seen the van and the alleged would-be kidnapper, despite what deputies were told initially.
Further investigation revealed there was no van — and no abductor.
Eventually, the teen revealed to investigators that she made up the story to avoid getting in trouble with her parents. She added she was meeting an acquaintance outside of her home without permission on the night of Feb. 26, and made up the story when confronted for details.
In addition to the resources unnecessarily expended during this investigation, the 14-year-old’s lie caused panic among many Richland County citizens, Sheriff Lott said. Some expressed frustration on social media sites that they had barred their children from playing outside in fear of a potential kidnapping.
It’s why Sheriff Lott stressed the importance of parents speaking with their children and having the kind of communication that allows for open and honest dialogue. He also would like to thank the citizens who took the time to review their surveillance videos in hopes of catching the alleged van and called in with tips.