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 look out 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.
Motivation a mystery
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 would not say Thursday what motivated the girl to report a fake abduction.
“That’s between her and her family,” Bynum said. He said answering such questions might require him to reveal medical information that he’s not qualified to discuss.
The family did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
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.
No signs of trouble at home
Friends and acquaintances described Kelsey as bright, a good student who is involved in softball, cheerleading, dance squad and student government. They said they didn’t see signs of trouble at home or school or anything to cause them to doubt that she’d been abducted.
“Every single one of us will tell you that Kelsey’s a very forthright young woman,” Stelting’s mother, Kelly Cox, said Wednesday. “If you listen to that 911 call, and I think if you’re a mom or a dad, I think you hear in her voice the trauma, that she is afraid.”
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.