Penn State police: Student made up kidnapping report

mdawson@centredaily.comMarch 31, 2014 

Simmons

Simmons Hall along Shortlidge Road on the Penn State University campus, Jannuary 29, 2014.

NABIL K. MARK

The Penn State student who told police she was kidnapped from a campus sidewalk early one morning in January is accused of fabricating the story and faces charges of making a false report.

Samantha Sernekos, 20, of Landing, N.J., first stood by her story about a kidnapping Jan. 25 when she went to report it to police three days later. But over a month later, after investigators confronted her with video footage and other evidence, Sernekos told police she made it up.

“We spoke with witnesses and friends, looked at video from the area, obtained phone records, carefully worked through the times and dates provided and used all available technologies to determine that this individual was not kidnapped and there was no crime committed,” Police Chief Tyrone Parham said in a statement.

Police said Sernekos never told them why she allegedly made up the report. She told police she came up with the story as she went to bed during the early morning hours of Jan. 25.

Sernekos’ initial report shook the campus. She’d told police a tale of being kidnapped off a sidewalk near Simmons Hall and pulled into a vehicle. She said she was then driven somewhere off campus where she was able to escape from her abductors as they tried to assault her.

In response, campus police stepped up night patrols, and they also began their investigation by collecting video footage, talking to students in the area and retracing her movements.

Police got video footage that showed Sernekos crossing East College Avenue around 1:18 a.m. and going into her dorm, Hiester Hall, at 1:24 a.m. They also had swipe-card records to corroborate the video evidence.

The story she told police was that she was kidnapped immediately after parting ways with a friend at Simmons Hall and that the ordeal lasted five to 15 minutes. But, police said, the evidence left only a three- or four-minute window for the ordeal to have happened.

Police said she admitted on Feb. 27 to lying about the report.

Sernekos will be notified of her charges by mail, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 30 in Centre County court. Online court records do not show if she has retained an attorney.

A similar attempt Feb. 1 reportedly occurred on Allen Street. State College police said a woman was walking when she was approached by a white sedan when a man repeatedly offered her a ride home. She said that he got out of the car and grabbed her arm, but she was able to get away.

Police Lt. Keith Robb said that case is now considered inactive.

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