West Virginia mom to be charged for made-up kidnapping story

Published: Apr. 2, 2019 at 2:07 PM EDT
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UPDATE (April 5):

A woman will be 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.

Detective Greg Lucas said Barboursville police will charge Santana Renee Adams 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.

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.

Adams initially told police Zayan grabbed her 5-year-old daughter by the hair inside a clothing store and tried to pull her away but stopped when she 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 falling apart when no witnesses could be found and mall surveillance video didn't match the woman's original statement.

"There's quite a bit that doesn't line up," Lucas told the AP.

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.

"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.

Adams couldn't immediately be reached for comment.


UPDATE (Apr. 3):

A man from Egypt initially accused of attempting to kidnap a child from the Huntington Mall in West Virginia was released from jail Tuesday night after the child's mother changed her story.

Mohamed Fathy Hussein Zayan, who's an engineer, was emotional as he was released to his family waiting outside the Western Regional Jail — openly crying with them.

The Egyptian consulate has been in touch with authorities in West Virginia about the overall incident.

A woman told Barboursville Police that Zayan tried to kidnap her 5-year-old daughter at the Huntington Mall on Monday. She also told police she pulled out a gun to scare the suspect away. The incident happened when the woman was shopping with her daughter in the Old Navy store a little after 6 p.m. Monday.

Police said Tuesday that the whole incident stemmed over a "cultural misunderstanding" when Zayan allegedly patted the girl on the head. The mother originally told police that a man tried to drag her daughter away by the hair.

Zayan, who was released on a reduced bond, still possibly faces a battery charge, police say. They did not say if the mother faces charges for changing her story.

The attempted abduction charge against Zayan hasn't been officially dropped just yet.


UPDATE (5 p.m.):

A mother who claimed a man attempted to abduct her daughter at a West Virginia mall is facing possible charges because she admitted to police she made up the story.

A felony charge of attempted abduction against 54-year-old Mohamed Fathy Hussein Zayan, of Alexandria, Egypt, is expected to be dropped later on Tuesday,


The woman reported the incident Monday evening at the mall and said she pulled out a gun to scare away the reported suspect. She recanted that story on Tuesday.

Instead, she told police the whole situation could have been a "cultural misunderstanding" and that the man was likely just patting her daughter on the head.

The woman had initially told investigators she was shopping with her daughter in the Old Navy store at the Huntington Mall a little after 6 p.m. when she said a man approached them and tried to pull her daughter away by the hair.

Zayan was arrested and arraigned at the Cabell County Courthouse late Monday night.

A prosecutor will determine if the mother will face charges for filing a false police report and if Zayan might still face a battery charge.


ORIGINAL STORY (1:39 p.m.):

Police in West Virginia say a man was trying to abduct a child at a mall when the mother stopped him by pulling out a gun.

News outlets report 54-year-old Mohamed Fathy Hussein Zayan of Alexandria, Egypt, was arraigned Monday night in Cabell County Magistrate Court on a felony charge of attempted abduction.

According to a criminal complaint, a woman was shopping with her 5-year-old daughter at the Huntington Mall in Barboursville when a man grabbed the girl by the hair and tried to pull her away. Police say the mother pulled out a gun and told the suspect to let go of the child. The man released the child and was later detained by mall security and Barboursville police near a food court.

Barboursville police are investigating and believe this is an isolated incident, and no further danger to the public exists.

Zayan was being jailed on $200,000 cash bond. Jail records didn't indicate whether he has an attorney.

The magistrate says he'll have to surrender his passport and stay in West Virginia.

An Arabic-speaking interpreter was used on the phone at the arraignment.

The suspect's preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 8.

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