Bardstown Police arrested a woman Jan. 22 on outstanding warrants after coming to the conclusion she falsely reported that she was almost abducted by a man in a white van.
Police took a closer look at surveillance video and determined the van did not match reports from three other victims, Bardstown Police Chief Rick McCubbin said in a press conference.
Lechia Smaagard, who was going by the name of Lechia Ann Lewis, also faces charges of falsely reporting an incident. Her outstanding warrants include a felony larceny charge in South Carolina and several local traffic violation warrants, Bardstown Police Capt. Tom Roby said.
Smaagard’s arrest is the latest development in a series of reported abductions attempts in Bardstown and Louisville, which have centered around a search for a white van and scruffy man.
On Jan. 11, a female Cracker Barrel employee was walking from the area next to Chili’s to Cracker Barrel when an older white van pulled alongside her at 1:30 p.m. Inside the van was a white male, possibly 50-60 years of age, with a “scruffy” beard.
The man allegedly offered a ride to the employee, who refused and continued walking.
The unidentified man persistently tried to get the woman into the van.
Police believe that the first incident is legitimate.
The next day, Lewis says she was almost abducted by a man in a white van. One detail she gave police was that the van’s license plate had the letters JHL on it. Both incidents were reported to police on Jan. 13.
Investigators on the case became suspicious very early involving the second report, according to a Bardstown Police Department press release.
“After posting the video of a “suspect vehicle” and viewing it in great detail, it was obvious that the second victim’s story and the video did not line up. Furthermore, using the last three characters, JHL, through extensive investigating, that white van was located and the owner was identified and cleared.”
Two similar incidents were reported in Louisville.
“We have no reason to believe that the first incident didn’t occur,” McCubbin said. “From what the first victim said in her interviews and stories, she appears to be credible.”
Lewis insists her report was true, McCubbin said.
“Early on we had the ‘cop sixth sense’ because something didn’t feel right with it,” he said. “We started noticing holes in her story and things that didn’t jive.”
He added that police are still looking for a suspect in the case, as is Louisville Metro Police. Bardstown is suspending the investigation involving Lewis, however.
Police are unsure of Lewis’ motive and said she isn’t cooperating.
“We’re back to square-one because of this fictitious incident,” McCubbin said.
The van that Lewis described to police belongs to a woman who happened to be in Cracker Barrel for a goat-herding meeting and isn’t from the area.
Roby said that Lewis’ vehicle left 15 minutes prior to the white van leaving, casting doubt on Lewis’ story.
“We were able to punch holes in Lewis’ story,” he said. “She molded her story and was being deceptive with us.”
He added that once police received the full video, they couldn’t see any individual in the parking lot who tried to interfere with Lewis, as she had stated to police.
McCubbin said police believe that Lewis built her story on what she heard from her co-worker.
Bardstown police have been in close contact with LMPD and the investigations involving victims one, three and four are still open and active, Roby said.
“We have to assume it’s still out there,” he said.
Police are now worried that Lewis has brought down the story of the three other women, but assure the public they are still taking the cases seriously, McCubbin said.
“We have too many crimes going on that need our attention than to deal with people using us for attention,” he said.