Louisiana officials are saying that a 20-year-old African-American woman’s story about being attacked and burned by three men in a potential hate crime was a figment of her imagination.
Sharmeka Moffitt made an emergency call at about 8 p.m. on Oct. 21 and told emergency personnel that three men in white hoods attacked her at a park in Winnsboro, La., doused her with flammable liquid and set her ablaze.
Moffitt also claimed the men wrote “KKK,” a reference to the Ku Klux Klan, and “N-gg-r” on the hood of her Buick LaCrosse.
But during an Oct.23 afternoon news conference at the Franklin Parish Courthouse, Franklin Parish Sheriff Kevin Cobb said all forensic evidence shows that Moffitt fabricated the tale and set herself on fire.
"Basically we had to follow the facts," Cobb said, as quoted by TheNewsStar.com. "This was a disturbing case for all involved. All indications show this was a self-inflicted situation."
Winnsboro Police Chief Lester Martin said investigators found, and DNA confirmed, Moffitt's fingerprints were on the cigarette lighter and the lighter fluid bottle; DNA evidence also confirmed that Moffitt was the one who used toothpaste to defile her car.
When officers came upon the scene at Capitan Park, Moffitt had apparently managed to extinguish the fire, but more than half her body was covered in burns, some of them third-degree, Louisiana State Police spokeswoman Lt. Julie Lewis told CBS News.
The young woman remains in critical condition at LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport.
If she recovers, Moffitt could face charges if the 5th Judicial District Attorney's Office decides to pursue the matter.
Martin said despite the circumstance, Moffitt and her family still deserve the community's prayers.
"This is a tragic situation," he said in the News Star article.
Moffitt’s family thanked law enforcement and the community for all their support, even as they expressed dismay at the outcome of the investigation.
“Our family is devastated to learn the circumstances surrounding our daughter's injuries. While this was not the resolution we had expected, it is a resolution, and we appreciate the thorough investigation by the local and state police as well as federal agencies,” the family’s statement, provided to TheNewsStar.com, read.
“We are sincerely sorry for any problems this may have caused and wish to express our appreciation for the outpouring of love, prayers and support we have received from friends, acquaintances, church organizations and government officials.”