A 34-year-old Columbia County woman who claimed she was kidnapped and assaulted during a shopping trip to Thomson last week was charged last Friday with making up the story.
Tabitha C. Barton, of the 5100 block of Whiteoak Road, Appling, was charged with false reporting of a crime, a misdemeanor, according to Thomson Police Investigator Lt. Scott Whittle. Ms. Barton was released from the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center on $1,050 bond.
Ms. Barton's arrest came after she confessed to making up a story that she was abducted at knifepoint and later attacked after buying groceries at the Wal-Mart in Thomson shortly before 7 p.m. Wednesday, Lt. Whittle said during a Friday news conference at the police department. "She admitted that she lied about the whole thing," Lt. Whittle said, saying that she never indicated any reason for the hoax.
"During the course of our investigation, the evidence did not correlate with what she said happened," Lt. Whittle said.
Ms. Barton, who gave several conflicting accounts about what reportedly happened, notified a family member first instead of calling 911. After telling the family member that she had been assaulted by a man with a knife, a 911 call was placed to the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department.
The woman said she was cut on the arm and stomach while waiting at the red light at the intersection of Harrison and Cobbham roads - less than a half block from Wal-Mart. She claimed that the man then forced her to drive him to Interstate 20 where the man jumped out of her Ford Expedition. The woman then drove to the intersection of Cobbham and Stagecoach roads where the relative was telephoned.
A number of deputies and police officers arrived on the scene, as did an ambulance. Ms. Barton was treated at the scene by medical personnel for a laceration to her right arm and abrasions to her stomach, Lt. Whittle said. She later was taken to Trinity Hospital in Augusta where she was treated for her injuries and released.
Deputies and troopers with the Georgia State Patrol searched the immediate area in an attempt to locate the reported assailant, including along a stretch of I-20 in both the eastbound and westbound lanes.
The investigator said while authorities were investigating the reported crime scene, that city police officers were gathering evidence from surveillance tapes at Wal-Mart which discounted the woman's version of what had taken place. Lt. Whittle said a tape revealed that after Ms. Barton loaded groceries into the back of her vehicle, she reentered the store and purchased a three-inch paring knife.
Lt. Whittle said police were careful not to disclose details about the alleged crime until they could confirm whether such a crime had actually occurred or not.
"We didn't want to cause undo panic among shoppers there," Lt. Whittle said, noting that his office had been "flooded" with telephone calls from people concerned about what they had heard through e-mails that began circulating Thursday.