A grandmother who fabricated a story about the abduction of her grandchildren because she had picked up more merchandise that she could afford could face criminal charges.
While expressing relief that no kidnapping had occurred, sheriff's spokesman Rod Norton said the grandmother's tale provoked a massive search involving dozens of law enforcement officers throughout the county "at great cost" to taxpayers."We took this case very seriously and put enormous manpower and resources on it," Norton said. "Undoubtedly, it will be reviewed for possible charges."
The search began about 6 p.m. Saturday after two children ages 4 and 5 were reported missing from the Bennion Wal-Mart, 5469 S. Redwood Road.
Deputies were told by the grandmother that she and the two children, who were visiting from California, were approached in the Wal-Mart parking lot by a man who offered his assistance. Though the woman is Vietnamese and speaks little English, she conveyed to the alleged kidnapper that she wanted no help and continued into the store, deputies were told.
While she was at the checkstand, she said, she noticed the children were missing and reported it to store personnel, who contacted police. Witnesses even corroborated the story, telling deputies they saw a white male matching the grandmother's description leading two Vietnamese children away.
More than three dozen law enforcement officers combed the area in the hours following the report, and many continued to search through the night and into Sunday.
The search ended about 5:15 p.m. Sunday, when the grandmother admitted to investigators that she had made up the story, Norton said. The two children apparently were never at the Wal-Mart, he said.
Her explanation, according to Norton, was that she had purchased more merchandise than she could afford and reported the abduction at the checkstand as a distraction.
"We're not sure whether it was meant as a deception or done out of embarrassment. It drew more attention than she expected and snowballed out of control. She didn't know how to stop it," Norton said.
Investigators are at a loss to explain the witnesses' corroborative statements. Norton speculated that in their eagerness to help, they might have "innocently misinterpreted" things they saw.