Search for missing mother and baby in NC is over; authorities say it was all fake
The search for a missing woman and her infant in North Carolina is over after authorities said the whole thing was a hoax designed to get money.
The Scotland County Sheriff’s Office made the announcement Friday night.
Danilla Mitzia “Missy” Bethea, 30, of Rockingham faces felony charges of obtaining property by false pretenses and giving false reports to law enforcement about a missing child, the sheriff’s office said on its Facebook page.
Multiple law enforcement agencies began a search Thursday when a mother and daughter reported that a woman named April Morrison “was being held against her will” and might have been a victim of human trafficking or prostitution, the sheriff’s office said.
Investigators suspected that Morrison’s child, not even a month old, might have been sold or given to people involved in human trafficking, the Facebook post says.
But authorities soon realized none of it was true: There was no April Morrison or baby called Lee Ann Morrison, the department said, and a picture of the baby provided to law enforcement was taken from social media.
The case captured the state’s attention for 24 hours and highlighted the dangerous world of human trafficking.
The sheriff’s office had said on Thursday that April Morrison arrived in North Carolina eight months pregnant and had been staying in motels in Richmond, Scotland and Cumberland counties.
The investigation took a turn Friday evening, leading to Bethea’s arrest.
Investigators twice interviewed Bethea, who told them Morrison was safe and the baby was being cared for by “unknown third parties.”
“These false statements were allegedly made and provided for the purposes of allegedly receiving money, from the reporting party, who believed she was supporting an infant child in need, and one whom she believed she would gain custody or guardianship over,” the Facebook post says.
Bethea was being held at the Scotland County jail under a $100,000 bond.