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North Carolina Woman Charged with Falsely Reporting She'd Been Murdered After Going "Missing"
After Margaret Sweeney was found safe, investigators found out "that Sweeney allegedly made anonymous third-party false reports to a friend, and the Department of Social Services that she had been murdered," the Franklin Police Department said.
A North Carolina woman initially believed to be missing has since been arrested for allegedly falsely reporting her own murder.
Margaret "Maggie" Frances Elizabeth Sweeney, a 37-year-old from the town of Franklin, was arrested Monday and charged with causing a false report to a police station, the false report of death or serious injury by phone, and obstructing law enforcement officers, according to the Franklin Police Department.
"Sweeney was reported missing on Friday August 18, 2023, at which time FPD Officers began an immediate investigation due to the information provided which alluded that Sweeney was endangered or deceased," the police department stated on Facebook Monday.
The woman was found safe the next day. Police continued the investigation and found out "that Sweeney allegedly made anonymous third-party false reports to a friend, and the Department of Social Services that she had been murdered," the Franklin Police Department added in the post.
"Sweeney's actions caused our department, as well as other departments, many hours of work which could have been spent on other matters," police added. "Family, friends, and the community as a whole were also very concerned and worried about Sweeney's welfare."
On Friday, the department stated on social media that it was investigating a missing person case involving Sweeney, who they identified as having brown hair and eyes and being 5', 5" tall. A Saturday update to that post said that the woman was located in a neighboring town and was safe.
Devin Holland, chief of the Franklin Police Department, told Asheville-based TV station WLOS that while the search was on for Sweeney, “everything at the moment seemed legitimate."
The station reported that multiple resources were used to locate the woman. An anonymous text soon made its way to police. "That allegedly said that Maggie had been assaulted and that she was deceased," Holland told WLOS. "Come Saturday morning August 19th, we were able to ping her phone in a neighboring town."
Sweeney was found by police unharmed in the town of Highlands.
"She said that she didn't know everyone was looking for her," Holland added.
But, he said, the information that was given to a friend of Sweeney and the Department of Social Services about her purported murder allegedly came from Sweeney's own phone. "We believe that Miss Sweeney allegedly sent these fraudulent messages," Holland said.
While Holland said police are not yet aware of a motive behind Sweeney's alleged behavior, he told WLOS, "It does appear there were some domestic issues with the boyfriend."
Sweeney's case has some similarities to the recent missing person case of Alabama woman Carlee Russell, who had initially claimed that she was kidnapped on the side of the highway on July 13 while trying to help a small child, but later admitted it was all a lie.
After the discovery that her abduction claims were a hoax, Russell was charged with two misdemeanors: false reporting to law enforcement authorities and falsely reporting an incident. Russell, 25, vanished for 49 hours after phoning 911 to report a child along an interstate in Hoover. She later came home on foot, telling cops she was abducted by a man who forced her into an 18-wheeler truck.