Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren urged residents today to consider some of the "positives" as he confirmed in an afternoon press conference that a 14-year-old girl lied about being sexually assaulted Jan. 14 near a school bus stop on Steam Mill Road.
Boren said neighbors in southeast Columbus are working together to protect their children, with residents watching for suspicious people and churches offering to protect students waiting for school buses. And just the fact that the assault did not happen was a relief to investigators and to parents fearing a predator was prowling that part of town.
One reason police did not earlier announce the girl had recanted her story was that they did not want to give a false sense of security to residents attending a meeting Thursday night at St. James Missionary Baptist Church, where ministers asked neighbors to work together to protect children.
Boren said residents always should be wary of crime, but police now do not believe another man is stalking school children here.
The 14-year-old's report of being dragged into the woods and assaulted by a heavyset man with a lazy eye frightened people partly because a 12-year old on Jan. 6 was abducted while walking to East Columbus Magnet Academy, 6100 Georgetown Drive, and sexually assaulted in a restroom at at Belvedere Park, 726 Parkwood Drive.
Investigators arrested 20-year-old Marcus Louis Wade in that case, and they are following up on other reports they suspect involved Wade, but since Wade's arrest, police have received no fresh, credible reports of someone stalking school children, Boren said. Wade still is being held in the Muscogee County Jail, Boren said.
He said the 14-year-old admitted around noon Thursday that she had fabricated her story. Boren said he did not know why the girl lied. She has been charged with falsely reporting a crime and released to the custody of her mother, he said. The charge is a misdemeanor and will be handled by juvenile court because of the girl's age, he said.
“The mother expresses regret that it happened and was very apologetic to the police investigators as well as the city of Columbus and the East Columbus neighborhoods," Boren said.
He said detectives occasionally discover someone reporting a crime is lying, and doing the investigative work necessary to determine that is just part of the job. “They collected and documented a series of information that had been given, as well as what was on the scene, that could not have happened the way it happened as reported to us,” Boren said.
The student had told investigators she was walking to a bus stop on Steam Mill Road when a heavyset man with a lazy eye grabbed her near the intersection of Steam Mill Road and R.C. Allen Drive, dragged her into the woods west of the intersection and assaulted her.
Her report caused additional alarm because it came less than two weeks after a 12-year-old girl allegedly was abducted and sodomized Jan. 6. Police said the 12-year-old was abducted while walking to and assaulted in a restroom Please continue to follow the Ledger's coverage of this breaking story.