BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ/Gray News/AP) – A woman was criminally charged for falsely reporting that an Egyptian man tried to kidnap her daughter from a West Virginia shopping mall, a police detective told The Associated Press on Friday.
Santana Renee Adams appeared before a Cabell County, W.Va. magistrate Friday afternoon. She is charged with falsely reporting an emergency incident.
The charge would be the latest turn in a sensational tale of a mother who used a gun to thwart an abduction that quickly unraveled amid inconsistencies in her story.
Authorities on Thursday announced they were dropping charges against the man, Mohamed Fathy Hussein Zayan, a 54-year-old engineer from Alexandria, Egypt, who is in the area for work. He cried as he greeted family members upon his release from jail.
“I feel like justice has prevailed,” said Michelle Protzman, Zayan’s public defender. “We seem to be living in a time where false accusations are becoming more prevalent. I think it would be great if we would all step back and think before we speak, react and judge."
Adams initially told police Zayan grabbed her 5-year-old daughter girl by the hair inside a clothing store and tried to pull her away but stopped when she produced a gun, authorities said. But the story started falling apart when no witnesses could be found and mall surveillance video showed inconsistencies in the woman’s original statement.
She later told investigators she may have overreacted and misinterpreted the man’s intentions. Zayan doesn’t speak English and police say he may have simply been patting the girl on the head.
“I’m not sure what her agenda was, but it was still very, very bad to hurt this man and upset our entire community like it did,” Detective Greg Lucas with the Barboursville Police Department said.
Adams couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Zayan and his attorney say the mother’s account was not what happened. He says he doesn’t know this woman and her daughter at all, and he couldn’t even say what they look like. He also said a gun was never pulled on him as the mother said.
Protzman said video surveillance doesn’t even show them near each other. It shows the mother and daughter leave the store first and Zayan leaving later. He then went to other stores and, later, the food court. Zayan said he was extremely confused when police approached him.
Zayan’s attorney says she’s hoping to get the charge expunged so he can travel freely and come back to the U.S. with no issues. Zayan said he hopes to come back and visit someday.
Police have confirmed that the woman had a gun in her front pocket. They say they’re not sure about a motive for making her original statement and then changing it.
Copyright 2019 Associated Press, WSAZ via Gray Television Group, Inc. All rights reserved.