By Josh Shepherd, News writer
A common lie fabricated by a Harrison County woman involving herself and her 14-month-old baby, went well beyond the plight of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” fable.
The lie escalated into a five--day search involving state, county and University of Kentucky law enforcement officers, caused the temporary lockdown of a major Lexington medical center and concluded with the arrest of the woman on two counts of lying to authorities.
On Saturday evening, March 1, Anthony Barnes of 113 W. Pike St. filed a missing persons report with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department for his wife, Rebecca Barnes, and their infant son.
During the ensuing investigation, concern for the safety of the mother and child became even more acute when Andy Barnes received a text message from his daughter-in-law saying, “please help me i want to com home dont know where I’m at...i love anthony...i’m scared...i was forced to leave at gun.”
According to a report filed by Deputy Sheriff Robert Peak, the Sheriff’s office received assistance from the Kentucky State Police to trace Rebecca Barnes’ text messages.
Information indicated that she was somewhere in Pulaski County. Because of a weak cell signal in the area, there was no way to pinpoint her exact location, Peak said.
As a courtesy, the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department made a general search of the area but were unable to locate the missing woman or her baby.
Five days later, Rebecca and her baby appeared at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center where her mother was scheduled for surgery.
Unable to locate her family at the hospital, Barnes called her husband and said they were at UK hospital. UK Police were alerted that a reportedly missing woman and an abducted infant were inside the medical center.
Because the report involved an infant, campus police ordered a temporary lockdown of the hospital until they could secure the infant.
Anthony Barnes had been granted emergency custody of the child during the time period that mother and child were reported missing.
Following the resolution of the missing persons case, Rebecca Barnes made a subsequent statement to Dep. Peak regarding her whereabouts. In her statement, Barnes claimed that an armed man in a mask appeared at her home on Saturday afternoon.
The unknown man forced her and her infant into a car. She was blindfolded, she said, and driven to an undisclosed location where she was held captive for five days. During the time of her captivity, she said that neither she nor her child were physically or sexually abused.
She managed to send a lengthy text message, but claimed that she was otherwise prevented from making any communications with her family.
On Wednesday, March 5, she said that her abductor became upset that the baby was not calling him “daddy” and drove her and her baby to a street in downtown Lexington and left them.
With her belongings in tow and her child in a car seat, she was walking to the UK Medical Center when another driver gave the mother and child a ride to the entrance, she said.
When questioned about several discrepancies between her story and the evidence gathered at the Sheriff’s department, Barnes broke down and admitted her story was a complete fabrication.
The truth was that she had met a James H. Ballenger, 26, of Somerset through an internet dating service. They had arranged for Ballenger to pick her and her child up. Barnes had told him that she was unmarried and never mentioned anything about her text messages to her family.
Following her admission, the Sheriff’s department secured a warrant for her arrest on two charges of falsely reporting an incident which carries a maximum penalty of one-year in jail.
At the same time that she was arrested for the charge, she was also served with divorce papers.