Experts: Need for attention drives most false police reports

  • Police search an area near a Volo cornfield Wednesday where Kristin B. Kiefer initially told authorities two men attempted to enter her car. Authorities say she later admitted she fabricated the story to get attention.

    Police search an area near a Volo cornfield Wednesday where Kristin B. Kiefer initially told authorities two men attempted to enter her car. Authorities say she later admitted she fabricated the story to get attention. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Kristin B. Kiefer

    Kristin B. Kiefer

  • Marilyn Lemak

    Marilyn Lemak

 
 
Updated 9/4/2015 10:45 AM

In the midst of investigating the 1999 deaths of Marilyn Lemak's three young children at the hands of their mother, Ray McGury -- then a Naperville police detective -- got a tip that suggested Lemak might not be responsible.

"This guy said that he observed her at a different location at the time and she was with some guy," McGury, now director of the Naperville Park District, recalled. "When we checked it out, he admitted he made it up and basically said that he wanted to get his name in the paper."

 

McGury said it didn't take long to unravel the lie, and the man wasn't charged with a crime.

Kristin B. Kiefer wasn't as lucky. The 30-year-old Vernon Hills woman is accused of lying by telling investigators hunting for the killers of a Fox Lake police officer that two men tried to force their way into her car Wednesday near Volo.

Authorities say Kiefer eventually told investigators she fabricated the story to get attention from the couple who employ her as a nanny. She faces felony and misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.

McGury said he would have charged her, too. "You've got three killers on the loose and all those resources got diverted to deal with her, but in our case we knew what we knew."

It's a need for attention that drives most false police reports, experts agree.

Dr. Eric Hickey, a forensic psychologist and dean of the California School of Forensic Studies for Alliant International University, said high-profile criminal cases with greater media coverage are ripe for false reports. It's no surprise investigators are already dealing with one, he said.

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In many cases, "they're needy. It gives them a chance to be heard," Hickey said. "They want to be part of the drama and excitement. They get excited in the heat of the moment."

In the past year alone, three suburban women have been charged with filing false police reports.

• Jessica C. Kramer, a 20-year-old Lake County woman, was charged with lying to police about being attacked while jogging near Lake Zurich last week.

• Veronica Klicka, 33, of Des Plaines was charged in December with filing a false police report about being stabbed in a forest preserve. Authorities determined she had injured herself, and she pleaded guilty in February and was sentenced to probation.

• A 30-year-old woman from Glen Ellyn named Sarena Dower was charged last September with filing a false police report after she accused an Oak Brook officer of excessive force after a traffic stop. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In Kiefer's case, she told investigators -- who are looking for two white men and a black man in connection with Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz's Tuesday morning murder -- that a white man and a black man approached her and tried to force their way into her car, prosecutors say. But police discovered no fingerprint or DNA evidence on her car, and prosecutors say Kiefer admitted to making up her story when confronted.

"It's an impulse, and they don't think it through to what the consequences will be," Hickey said. "They just imagine their name in the paper, and I guess in this case, oh boy, that's what happened."

Police experts and criminologists say details always trip up someone who is making a false report.

"I remember we had a case where a young person told us they had been kidnapped and taken to the Prairie Path," recalled former Elmhurst Police Chief John Millner. "But it just wasn't making any sense. There were a lot of details about what happened, but the level of details weren't consistent before or after the kidnapping. It turned out they just didn't want to get in trouble for coming home late."

Hickey said it's common for those who file false reports to continue to embellish their stories upon each retelling.

"They change the stories constantly and always add to it because police are asking them to repeat parts and they take that to mean they aren't being believed, so in their minds they need to add details to be believed," he said.

McGury, who was police chief in Bolingbrook when disgraced ex-cop Drew Peterson's fourth wife Stacy went missing, said that investigation was plagued with false tips and reports because of the international attention it drew.

"We had someone say they saw Stacy shopping in Tennessee, and we'd have to check that out," McGury said. "Most of the people that do this have very low self-esteem, and this is a way to boost their own self-esteem."

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