Thelma Williams, a 38-year-old Ohio woman, sparked a massive police response, including the deployment of a helicopter and the shutting down of a highway on Wednesday when photos and video of her bound and gagged in her basement were shared on Facebook.
The images were sent to the social media platform shortly after noon on Sept. 27. Alarmed friends and relatives called 911 and said a man had kidnapped her.
“It has video and picture of her saying they have her and they’re going to kill her today,” a friend of Williams told a 911 operator, according to Cincinnati’s WLWT 5.
When police arrived, they found Williams in the basement of her Middletown home loosely bound with a pair of underwear in her mouth. She told police that a masked man had attacked her that morning and left her tied up. According to Williams, he recorded the images, posted them, then called a contact on Williams’s phone, laid the phone by her side, and left.
After investigating, police discovered that Williams had recorded the cellphone video herself. Williams then admitted the kidnapping was a hoax in an interview with police. She was arrested and charged with filing a false report, a fifth-degree felony.
“We can actually see her waiting for it [the video] to come on so she can get her serious face on. … We find her story to be totally a fabrication,” Sheriff Richard Jones told WLWT.
Williams’s daughter was terrified when she first saw the video but believes her mother pulled the stunt to ask for help, not attention. “If my mom made this up, it’s not for attention. It’s because she needs help, not because she needs to be behind bars,” Lorin Karol told the TV station.
Jones has asked that Williams be “prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”