West Virginia Woman’s Fanciful Story That She Stopped an Egyptian Man from Abducting Her Daughter Quickly Unravels 

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A woman who told police that an Egyptian man had tried to kidnap her daughter from a West Virginia shopping mall was jailed Friday after the accusation unraveled, a police detective said.

Barboursville Police Detective Greg Lucas said Santana Renee Adams was charged with falsely reporting an emergency incident, a misdemeanor that carries up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

False child abduction
Santana Renee Adams is escorted into Cabell County Magistrate Court to be arraigned on charges for falsely reporting an emergency incident, Friday, April 5, 2019, in Huntington, W.Va. The charges stem from Adams falsely reporting that an Egyptian man attempted to kidnap her daughter from a West Virginia shopping mall Monday evening. (Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch via AP)

The 24-year-old Adams turned herself in about 2 p.m. and was jailed after a magistrate judge set bail at $20,000, Lucas said. She was calm and quiet while she was booked and ignored questions from a throng of reporters waiting for her at the courthouse, he said. Lucas said she didn’t have an attorney yet.

The charge capped a sensational tale of a mother using a gun to thwart a brazen abduction attempt that quickly fell apart amid inconsistencies.

Adams initially told police that a man grabbed her 5-year-old daughter by the hair inside a clothing store Monday and tried to pull her away but stopped when Adams produced a gun, authorities said. A criminal complaint went into further detail, describing a frightening scene where a Middle Eastern man dragged the girl by the hair as she dropped to the floor.

But the story started to crumble when no witnesses could be found and mall surveillance video didn’t match the woman’s original statement. Upon additional questioning, authorities said, Adams began changing her account.

She later told investigators she may have overreacted and misinterpreted the man’s intentions. Police said he may have simply been patting the girl on the head.

“There’s quite a bit that doesn’t line up,” Lucas said.

On Thursday, authorities announced they were dropping charges against the man, Mohamed Fathy Hussein Zayan, a 54-year-old engineer from Alexandria, Egypt, who was in the area for work. He cried as he greeted family members upon his release from jail.

“Unfortunately, as false accusations are becoming more prevalent in today’s social media driven society, we are losing our grasp on ‘presumed innocent until proven guilty,’ and Mr. Zayan has been tried around the world by the court of public opinion,” Zayan’s public defender attorney, Michelle Protzman, said in a statement Thursday to The Associated Press.

Back at the police station after Adams was jailed, Lucas had a moment to reflect.

“It has been a long and sleepless week,” he said.

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