Audrey Seiler, the University of Wisconsin sophomore accused of staging her own disappearance last month, was charged Wednesday with two misdemeanor counts of obstructing officers.
Each charge carries a jail sentence up to nine months and a maximum fine of $10,000. Investigators said she told them, “It just got so out of hand. I did not mean for it to.”
Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard filed the 16-page criminal complaint two weeks after Seiler, 20, was discovered in a marshy area within a mile of her campus apartment, when she told police a man with a knife and a gun was in the area. She was reported missing March 27 and found March 31.
When officers attempted to assist Seiler to her feet she said “I can’t leave the woods — a bad man will kill me,” according to the complaint. She told officers the man had a knife and a gun.
Her claim touched off a major manhunt, which authorities said accounted for most of the money they spent on the case. The Madison police department last week estimated its costs at $96,000.
According to the criminal complaint, Seiler told police on March 31 and April 1 that a man had entered her room at 2:15 a.m. March 27 while she was doing homework and forced her from her room at knifepoint, telling her to leave the building.
Seiler told police that once outside, the same man grabbed her and put her into a car with threats that he had a gun, according to the complaint. She also said the man used duct tape over her mouth and would sometimes give her Nyquil pills.
Police concluded Seiler’s story was fake after obtaining a videotape that showed her buying the knife, duct tape, rope and cold medicine she claimed her abductor used to restrain her. They also obtained a warrant to search her laptop computer and cell phone records.
After investigators showed Seiler the surveillance photos of her buying the knife and other items during the April 1 interview, she said she purchased gum, Chapstick, flu medicine and tape for her bedroom lights.
Seiler’s roommate, Heather Thue, told officers that Seiler seemed depressed and was “confused” about her relationship with her boyfriend, Ryan Fisher. Thue said Fisher did not pay as much attention to Seiler as she wanted.
During her April 1 interview, Seiler broke down crying when investigators told her they believed she was under a lot of stress.
“I know you think I can’t handle Ryan, or my grades, but I can,” Seiler said and started crying, according to the complaint.
As investigators attempted to console her, she added, “It just got so out of hand. I did not mean for it to ... everybody did so much for me,” the complaint said.
Hundreds of people from Madison and Seiler’s hometown participated in searches for her after her disappearance.
Seiler had also reported an unexplained attack in February, saying she was struck from behind and left unconscious, but the complaint does not say whether police believe that attack was also fabricated.
A message left at Seiler’s home in Rockford, Minn., wasn’t immediately returned. The family’s attorney, Randy Hopper, was traveling and didn’t immediately return messages left at his office and on his cell phone.
Seiler had been under a doctor’s care since she was found, but returned home to Rockford, Minn., last week.
Hopper did not release any details of Seiler’s condition or say what type of treatment she was receiving. “Dateline NBC” reported that Seiler was in a psychiatric facility.