A college student’s tale of being abducted at knifepoint during a four-day disappearance has been called a hoax by police, but no motive has been offered for why she may have faked a kidnapping.
Police said Friday that University of Wisconsin-Madison sophomore Audrey Seiler lied about being held captive and planted a knife and other items in the marsh where she was found to make it look like she had been abducted.
“We don’t think an abduction occurred at all,” police spokesman Larry Kamholz said.
Assistant Police Chief Noble Wray said a videotape shows Seiler buying a knife, duct tape, rope, gum and cold medicine before she vanished. He said that a search of her computer turned up maps of wooded areas in Madison and extended weather forecasts, suggesting she planned the whole thing.
Wray said he couldn’t speculate on what may have motivated Seiler, 20, except for her statement when altering her story Friday that she originally left her apartment because she wanted to “be alone.”
In the new version, she said she was abducted not at her apartment but later, elsewhere in Madison.
Wray declined to comment on whether Seiler could face charges for lying to police, saying investigators were still working to piece together a timeline of her activities while she was missing.
Caught on camera
A surveillance camera at Seiler’s apartment building showed her walking out alone about 2:30 a.m. last Saturday. She was reported missing when she failed to show up at a gathering later that day.
Friends and family from her hometown of Rockford, Minn., descended on Madison, searching woods and neighborhoods.
She turned up Wednesday in a marsh near the state Department of Revenue building. A worker there saw Seiler in the marsh during a lunch-hour stroll and called police.
Seiler initially told police a man with a knife had kidnapped her. Police combed through the brush with weapons drawn but found only the knife, duct tape and other items.
Adding to the mystery were reports that Seiler reported being attacked from behind by an unknown assailant in a separate incident in February.
The police announcement Friday came as a shock to those who know Seiler, many of whom described her as a good student who was captain of her high school basketball and volleyball teams.
“Our whole family is not doing well at this point,” said David Fisher, the brother of Seiler’s boyfriend, Ryan. “But we love her. Whatever happens. We’ll love her through whatever.”
Seeking an explanation
In Minnesota, Principal Roman Pierskalla of Rockford High School said he hoped people would not condemn Seiler as she works to regain control of her life.
“We, like everyone else, are struggling to understand and deal with this news,” he said. “We do not know what is going on in Audrey’s life, mind or heart. We only know that Audrey still needs our concern.”
A message The Associated Press left Friday at a listing for her father, Keith Seiler, in Rockford, was not returned, and no one answered the door at the family’s home. Police said Seiler and her family were in an undisclosed location in Madison.
The “Dateline NBC” news program reported Friday night that Audrey Seiler was in a psychiatric facility.
Kamholz said he spoke with Keith Seiler for about an hour Friday after Wray’s announcement. He said Keith Seiler feels badly about what police and everybody else went through, but was happy to have his daughter back.
“No matter what type of issues are out there, his daughter is alive and she’s now safe,” Kamholz said.
Police estimated costs for the intensive manhunt would exceed $70,000, said Melanie Conklin, a spokeswoman for Mayor David Cieslewicz.
Milwaukee assistant city attorney Rudolph Konrad said there’s no provision in state law that allows a city to sue someone to recover the cost of police services, although a judge could order restitution of police costs as part of a potential criminal sentence.