SCOTLAND COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - After a multi-agency search for a missing infant and her mother, North Carolina officials say it was all a hoax.
According to the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office, the story about the missing woman and infant was fabricated. Danilla Mitzia “Missy” Bethea, 30, was arrested Friday and deputies are working on a second arrest.
Bethea was charged with offenses including obtaining property by false pretenses. The story was a scheme for donations, the AP reports.
“Upon intensive investigative measures, we were able to locate a suspect who was alleged to have been involved in this situation," Lt. Jessica Sadovnikov with SCSO said. "Upon conclusion of the interview, investigators confirmed that there was not a woman named April Morrison or missing infant child at any point. The photo put out of the child in this investigation was stolen off of Facebook. Upon completion of our interviews, investigators confirmed our reporting parties were made to believe that there was a child in danger and in need for purposes of extorting money from my reporting parties.”
An AMBER Alert was initially expected to be issued for the infant who was reported as being missing and in danger. The mother was reportedly believed to be dead.
About an hour after the 4 p.m. press conference about the situation, Scotland County officials said an AMBER Alert could not be issued for the missing child.
“At this time, with the facts as they stand, they say there is not enough information to qualify for an AMBER Alert," Sadovnikov said. “We need the media to serve as our AMBER Alert because this baby is in imminent danger.”
The baby was reported missing Thursday by those who called themselves witnesses who “knew” the baby’s mother, who officials say went by the suspected alias of April Morrison.
Supposed “acquaintances” of the baby and mother called officials Thursday after hearing reports that April was in another state and may be dead, officials say.
The Scotland County Sheriff’s Office say “April Morrison” lived a transient lifestyle and that someone brought her to the Richmond County area in December when she was eight months pregnant.
The mother was believed to be staying in motels or hotels between Richmond County, Scotland County and Fayetteville, NC. She was also provided financial and residential assistance by acquaintances, who officials say were the ones to report the baby missing Thursday.
Morrison reportedly gave birth to a baby girl on Jan. 10, making the girl around 2 weeks old. Witnesses say the mother named the baby LeeAnne Morrison, which is also a suspected alias.
It turned out that there is no April Morrison. The photo of the baby had been taken from Facebook.
Sadovnikov said they were working with the FBI and other local agencies on developing a sketch of “April Morrison.”
Witnesses involved with reporting baby LeeAnne missing released the photo of the baby to authorities, which officials are now saying was stolen off of Facebook.
Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office at 910-266-4332 Ext 4.