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A criminal probe has been opened into the disappearance of a California woman, whose story about surviving in the wilderness for nearly two weeks is in question, authorities said.
Holly Suzanne Courtier is now under investigation, following an alleged nearly two-week trek into Utah’s Zion National Park, in which she claimed to have survived on little food and water, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, ABC affiliate KTVX-TV reported.
Courtier, an unemployed nanny from Los Angeles, has been the subject of national media coverage since vanishing on Oct. 6 — and mysteriously reappearing 12 days later.
Almost immediately after her recovery, law enforcement, however, began to scrutinize the 38-year-old’s tale of survival.
“The statements that the family is giving and the statements that the park is giving don’t add up,” Sgt. Darrell Cashin previously told KTVX-TV. “Those are the types of questions I think everybody has. I think the place where that question can be answered is with her.”
Particularly, investigators doubted Courtier was able to sustain herself with little rations for such a lengthy period.
Courtier, who reportedly had been situated near a water source with a toxic algae bloom while lost in the national park, likely would have poisoned herself had she drank the water in her vicinity, authorities said.
Courtier was also alert and didn’t require an ambulance after being found, contradicting previous statements from the family that she “injured her head on a tree” while she was lost in Zion National Park, KWCH-DT reported.
“These inconsistencies raised some questions as to the authenticity of the events as reported to law enforcement,” Washington County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement, according to KTVX-TV.
The woman’s family, however, have strongly denied accusations that the woman’s disappearance was a stunt.
“There are not holes in the story, there are no discrepancies," her sister, Jaime Strong, told the Spectrum. “It just got blown very out of proportion.”
In the weeks following her recovery, county authorities also said they’ve received a number of tips that Courtier may have orchestrated her own disappearance in an effort to defraud nearly $12,000 from the public using a GoFundMe page operated by relatives.
“Numerous tips have been received indicating the incident was possibly conceived and carried out as part of a plan to fraudulently generate money to a GoFundMe account for Courtier’s recovery," detectives said, according to the Spectrum.
However, law enforcement said they haven’t found any concrete evidence to back up the allegations.
The page, according to relatives, was set up to help cover expenses related to search and recovery efforts, as well as “post recovery care,” for the previously missing woman.
“[Courtier] did not intend ... for her trip to become a search and rescue effort,” the page stated late last month. “If Holly was not found when she was, she would have died."
Strong, who also insisted the family’s GoFundMe was legitimate, encouraged skeptical donors to request a refund if they doubted her sister’s ordeal.
“[The fundraiser] is, and always was, 100 percent legitimate,” she said. “[Anyone with] concerns about our use of their donation is welcome to request a refund without any objection from the family.”
Courtier’s family had previously stated the woman had recently lost her job and was undergoing psychological issues at the time she decided to venture into Utah’s Zion National Park in October.
“She definitely was having a mental breakdown,” Strong told the Spectrum. “She told us later she was seeking a total disconnect from everything. She really just wanted to be alone. She had no idea it would turn into anything it would turn into or the worry she would cause or what it would become.”
Courtier has since checked into a mental health clinic following the incident, relatives said.
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