A Texas teen has admitted she fabricated a kidnapping and gang rape that created fear in her community and sparked outrage in far right and white supremacist social media circles, police say.
“The Denison Police Department has determined that the alleged abduction and sexual assault case reported on March 8, 2017 was a hoax,” police said Wednesday in a press release.
Breana Harmon Talbott, 19, was charged with making a false report to a peace officer, the Denison Police said.
“This alleged crime as reported by Breana Harmon Talbott made many in the community fearful there were individuals abducting women,” Chief Jay Burch said in a statement. “Even though we know the story to be a hoax, there is still potential damage to the reputation of the City of Denison and the Texoma region as many may remember the reported crime but not the outcome. That is unfortunate.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Talbott Showed Up at a Local Church Dressed Only in a Shirt, Bra & Underwear While Bloody & Covered in Scratches After Being Reported Missing
Breana Talbott was reported missing on March 8, 2017, by her then-fiance, Samuel Hollingsworth, the Denison Police Department said in a press release. He called police about 5:30 p.m.
He told police Talbott’s vehicle was in the parking lot of the Creekmore Apartments on Texoma Parkway “with the vehicle door open, her phone, keys and a shoe nearby.”
Police said they “mobilized all available resources to begin looking for Ms. Talbott.”
That same night, a bloodied Talbott walked into a nearby church “wearing only a shirt, bra and underwear. She told witnesses at the church she had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted in the woods behind the church. There were also visible cuts and/or scratches on her body.”
Talbott told police she had been kidnapped by three black men in an SUV as she was getting out of her car in the parking lot of the apartment complex.
Saul Marquez, the pastor of the New Creation Church where Talbott was found, told KDFW-TV, “She was in bad shape. She was bleeding. They had to bring some sheets to cover her up and try to calm her down. As a church, we’re here for a reason. It’s a good thing she found some refuge here.”
Police said they do not believe anyone else knew it was a hoax.
“Initially we did question two or three other people close to her that we thought may have knowledge,” Police Chief Jay Burch said at a press conference, the Herald Democrat reports. “From our investigation we’re pretty certain that no one else had any information that this was a hoax.”
2. She Told Police She Was Abducted & Gang-Raped by ‘3 Black Males’ Wearing Ski Masks, but Police Couldn’t Confirm She Was Assaulted
Talbott told police she was abducted and then gang-raped by “three black males” wearing ski masks, the Denison Police Department said.
“She claimed the suspects took her in a black SUV to a wooded area nearby where 2 suspects raped her while the 3rd suspect held her down,” police said.
She also claimed her attackers cut her from head to toe to leave her scarred.
“After getting the victim’s information, she was taken to Texoma Medical Center for examination. In the meantime, DPD patrol officers, detectives, and the K-9 team scoured the area where Talbott says she was taken and assaulted. Several pieces of evidence were gathered and more of Talbott’s clothing and other personal effects were recovered,” police said.
Talbott’s mother posted about the alleged assault on her Facebook page:
Police said they quickly had doubts about Talbott’s story.
“Our team of detectives, led by John Watt, did an outstanding job in the case,” Police Chief Jay Burch said. “Almost from the beginning, we had doubts in Breana Harmon Talbott’s story as the puzzle pieces just weren’t coming together. We were unable to corroborate any of Talbott’s allegations that she had been abducted or sexually assaulted.”
Burch said Talbott confessed to staging the entire incident, including the crime scenes, starting with the “initial ‘kidnapping’ scene at the apartment complex to the point of Talbott’s condition when she walked into the church – were staged.”
Burch said Talbott admitted the injuries she suffered were self-inflicted.
“Although I do not have the official report, it is our understanding that medical personnel who examined Talbott were unable to corroborate that Talbott had been sexually assaulted,” Burch said.
He told reporters, “As you know people start lying and they have to lie to cover other lies — eventually it just reaches a point like this one where it’s just out of control. She had dug herself so deep a hole that I don’t think there was any other way of getting out of it but just telling the truth.”
3. Police Say the Case Spun Out of Control on Social Media & the Hoax Was ‘Especially Offensive to the African-American Community’
Denison Police Chief Jay Burch said the social media reaction to the case caused issues for police.
“The case quickly gathered regional attention due to the severity of the alleged crime and rumors quickly begin to spin out of control through social media,” Burch said. Almost immediately, Talbott’s story and allegations began to unravel. Within only a day or two, detectives had doubts as to most of Talbott’s allegations.”
“Many persons fell victim to Breana Harmon Talbott’s hoax. The police were quickly disparaged by Talbott’s family and friends,” Burch said. “Social media comments and opinions were out of control making it difficult to focus on solving this case.”
Police didn’t immediately put out information on the case, leading to claims they were hiding information and resulting in Talbott’s mother posting information about the investigation.
“Even though we originally assumed this case to be legitimate, the great work of Denison Police Department investigators and officers quickly led to major questions as to the validity of the alleged crime,” Burch said. “Even though we strongly felt this was a hoax soon into the investigation, it was my decision to delay notifying the public until we had 100% confirmation it didn’t happen. Plus, we wanted to insure we did everything we could on the remote chance there was any truth to the alleged crime.”
He previously addressed the social media issue in a March 15 Facebook post, before it was announced the case was a hoax:
As many of you know, there was a report last week of an abduction and sexual assault of a young woman allegedly by three black men as reported by the victim. We are aware of the significant comments on social media reference this case. As with a high profile case as this alleged crime is, many persons offer comment and opinion that others believe to be true. For example, one person posted that random women were often being abducted and sexually assaulted by a person or persons in Denison. This is simply not true. But for the case alleged last week, it has been over 5 years or more since such a similar type case was reported in Denison.
Emotions also run high in such a serious case, especially when detectives must look at every angle in such a report. There is no way to look at every angle without some people getting offended and I apologize for that, but it is the way we have to work an investigation to hopefully have a successful prosecution one day. That said, I’m sure the mere posting of this information will draw many negative comments toward the police department because some people are quick to offer their opinion that whatever the police do is wrong or not enough. I understand that opinion.
I’m posting this today to let the public know we remain diligent in working this case. We have contacted or will be contacting state and federal authorities that are experts in this area of investigation as we want to leave no stone unturned. When and if we have a case to present to the District Attorney’s Office, we will consult with them in that regard as well.
Our detectives have recovered evidence we hope will provide identifiable DNA. The downside of getting the evidence processed at the state lab is that it sometimes takes months to get results although we will ask for expedience. In spite of this alleged crime and the opinion of some on social media, Denison remains a safe city with a very low crime rate and the police department will do our best to keep it this way.
Speaking of crime, another reason I wanted to post this today is because other cases still continue, albeit much less in priority to last week’s alleged offense, and you will be seeing the typical postings of photos of theft suspects as in the past on this site. Before we posted photos of theft suspects for example, we just wanted to make sure the community knows the reported case from last week remains a priority. Obviously, should we get photos or other information to post from last week’s alleged offense, we will certainly post it as soon as we get it. Thank you for your patience.
The story was picked up by many alt-right and white supremacist websites, who played up the reports that the suspects were black. They also claimed the media was covering up the case because of the race of the suspects.
Headlines blared, “3 Black THUGS Kidnap And Do The UNTHINKABLE To 18 Year Old Woman- MSM SILENT For SICK Reason,” and “Black Thugs Allegedly Kidnap, Gang Rape, Repeatedly Slash Beautiful White Teen: Media Silent.”
They also shared memes about the case:
Burch said the case harmed the community, especially African Americans.
“Breana Harmon Talbott’s hoax was also insulting to our community and especially offensive to the African-American community due to her description of the so-called suspects in her hoax,” Burch said. “The anger and hurts caused from such a hoax are difficult and all so unnecessary.”
He expanded on those thoughts at a press conference, saying, “These kind of things are hurtful to the community in general and specifically when a race is alleged to have committed a crime on a particular race — it’s going to be hurtful to that part of our community. It’s difficult and in this case it was just so unnecessary.”
Two men have been charged in the mysterious 2015 murder of 21-year-old Heather Ciccone in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, police say.
4. Talbott’s Fiance Says He Is ‘Moving On’ After the ‘Terrible Betrayal’ & Doesn’t Know Why She Would Stage a Rape
Talbott’s former fiance, Sam Hollingsworth, told KDFW-TV he is “moving on” from the relationship after the terrible betrayal. He said he and Talbott had a fight before she disappeared, but he doesn’t understand why she would stage a gang rape.
The fight was over whether the couple would move after Hollingsworth joined the Army. According to Facebook posts, Talbott and Hollingsworth had been engaged since November 2016 and started dating in April 2016.
“I was hurt. It was hard to take in whenever I found out about everything,” Hollingsworth told the news station. “Somebody that I actually trusted and was planning on spending the rest of my life with could do something like this to me and everybody else in this community.”
Talbott, a recent graduate of Denison High School and a Denison native, works as a patient care technician at Carrus Speciality and Rehabilitation Hospitals, according to her Facebook page.
She has also studied nursing at Grayson College.
Talbott was reported missing once before, in July 2014, according to a Facebook post from a family friend. She returned home two days after she was last seen.
5. She Has Been Arrested on a Misdemeanor Charge & Police Say They Will Seek Restitution
Talbott was charged Wednesday with making a false report to a peace officer, a class B misdemeanor, the Denison Police Department said in a press release.
Police Chief Jay Burch said the department “will also restitution for the significant costs for conducting such a major investigation.”
She faces up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000, according to Texas law.
It is not clear if she has hired an attorney.
A GoFundMe page was set up by someone in her name to raise money for Talbott’s “stolen jewelry” and medical expenses, but it was not started by her, police told KXII-TV.
“Police say that would be handled between the person who created the page and the people who donated,” the news station reports.
Shalamar Traylor, whose uncle lives at the apartment complex where Talbott claimed she was kidnapped from, told KXII he was questioned by police.
“We definitely had to speak with someone to prove our whereabouts when the situation happened,” Traylor said. “Three black men in a big black suburban and a one way in one way out apartment complex in broad daylight, things don’t add up. When things don’t add up people are going to talk.”
Traylor said he has the utmost respect for the police department.
“To be honest I don’t know why she did it,” Traylor told the news station. “The only thing I care about is that we don’t have any black men in the criminal system that have been accused of something they did not do.”
Police said they want to make it clear the crime never happened.
“It’s unfortunate a person can falsely report such a major incident in our community that wastes the time of law enforcement and needlessly puts some people in fear,” Burch said. “I apologize to those who have current investigations with the department as we delayed those to focus on this case. As I said in a recent Facebook post, Denison has been and will remain a safe community with a great quality of life.”