Colonel: Girl in abduction hoax should be charged

By Heather Leigh, Mobile journalist, hleigh@wjxt.com
News4Jax.com Staff, webteam@wjxt.com
Published On: Apr 30 2014 12:10:35 PM EDT
Updated On: Apr 30 2014 12:10:00 AM EDT

Clay County investigators tell us a teenage girl's disappearance last night, was a hoax. She could wind up facing charges.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -

The 16-year-old girl who told her parents she was pulled into a truck by two men Tuesday night has admitted she made up the story to try to get sympathy from her ex-boyfriend, Clay County Sheriff's Office Col. Craig Aldrich said on Wednesday morning.

Investigators said the girl had recently separated with her boyfriend and was actively evading being found during a short but intensive search for her.

Authorities say Ankita Lavender called her father around 7:20 p.m. claiming she had been abducted near Ridaught and County Road 220.

LISTEN: Parents' 911 call to Clay County Sheriff's Office

Lavender’s mother called the Clay County Sheriff's Office, saying, “The father is talking to her right now and she says she was kidnapped by two guys in a pickup truck.”

Officials said the phone had been shut off after Lavender made the initial call.
Over the next couple of hours, 40 Clay County deputies assisted by a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office helicopter searched the area north of Middleburg for any sign of the girl. An Amber Alert was issued, but public notifications were not made before she was located.

About 10:25 p.m., a motorist driving on Henley Road at the intersection of Carlotta spotted a girl lying on her back on the shoulder of the road -- less than one mile from where Lavender claimed she was abducted -- and called 911.

Deputies said Lavender was emotionally upset and complaining of injuries from being thrown from the vehicle. She was taken to Orange Park Medical Center to be examined.

When questioned by detectives, Lavender admitted making up the story. She said she was despondent over her break up with her boyfriend and "decided to play the sympathy card."

Neighbor Tanja Bennett, who lives just down the street from Lavender, said the neighborhood was lit up Tuesday night by the search light of a helicopter searching for the teen.

"I'm locking the doors, making sure everything is secure, and you know, I just went to bed thinking about it," Bennett said. "Because it was late when we were reading about it. It was the last thing on my mind."

Prosecutors will review the case for possible charges such as filing a false police report, a misdemeanor.

"My personal opinion is that she should be charged, but that's a matter for the state attorney's office," Aldrich said.

Aldrich said the Sheriff's Office throws all available resources at a missing juvenile case like this, "because you never know which ones are legitimate."
He estimates Tuesday night's search cost $5,000-$6,000, and they will seek reimbursement from the family through the courts.

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