Trial date set for West Virginia mom accused of fake abduction tale

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BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. (WHSV) — UPDATE (5:30 p.m.):

The lawyer for a West Virginia woman charged with falsely reporting that an Egyptian man tried to kidnap her daughter says race had nothing to do with the incident.

Attorney Kathryn Cisco-Sturgell issued a statement on Thursday saying 24-year-old Santana Renee Adams was genuinely fearful for her child's safety when she called 911.

Adams was initially hailed as a hero after claiming she used a gun to thwart the attempted kidnapping of her 5-year-old on April 1. She specifically related how "a Middle Eastern man" tried to drag her daughter by the hair across the floor of a mall, saying she drew a gun to stop the abduction.

But surveillance video from the mall showed nothing like that happening at all – instead, video showed the man patting the girl on the head. Police at the time described the incident as "a cultural misunderstanding."

Abduction charges were later dropped against the man, a 54-year-old engineer who was in the area for work, and Adams was charged with filing a false report instead.

Adams faces up to six months in jail. She has a bench trial set for Nov. 15.

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UPDATE (Sept. 26):

A trial date has been set for a West Virginia woman accused of falsely reporting that an Egyptian man tried to kidnap her daughter from a shopping mall.

A Cabell County judge has set a Nov. 15 bench trial for Santana Renee Adams, a court clerk said Thursday.

Adams, 24, was initially hailed as a hero after claiming she used a gun to thwart a brazen, mid-day kidnapping of her 5-year-old on April 1. The sensational tale was bolstered with vivid details about how a Middle Eastern man pulled her daughter by the hair, dragging her across the floor of a clothing store, according to a criminal complaint.

But her story quickly began to unravel when no witnesses could be found and mall surveillance video didn't match up with her original statement.

Authorities said Adams started changing her account upon further questioning and told officials she might have overreacted or misinterpreted the man's intentions. Police said the man may have simply been patting the girl on the head.

Abduction charges were later dropped against the man, a 54-year-old engineer from Alexandria, Egypt, who was in West Virginia for work. He cried as he greeted family members upon his release from jail. He left the country days later, with police driving to the airport.

Adams faces up to six months in jail. Her attorney did not immediately have a comment.

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A West Virginia woman is due in court on a charge of falsely reporting to police that an Egyptian man tried to kidnap her daughter from a shopping mall.

The Huntington Herald-Dispatch reports 24-year-old Santana Renee Adams is expected to appear Thursday on the misdemeanor charge, punishable by a $500 fine and up to a six-month jail sentence.

Adams was hailed as a hero after claiming she used a gun to thwart a kidnapping on April 1. But her story unraveled when no witnesses could be found and mall surveillance video instead supported a tale of a woman scared of an Egyptian man who couldn't speak English.

Adams initially told police Mohamed Fathy Hussein Zayan, a 54-year-old engineer from Alexandria, Egypt, who was in the area for work, 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.

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 show her account at all.

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 and described the whole incident as a "cultural misunderstanding."

“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.

"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 to The Associated Press.

Protzman said the surveillance video didn't even show the two 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.

Police did confirm the woman had a gun in her front pocket.

Abduction charges were later dropped against the accused man, who returned to Egypt to reunite with his family.