University Police: alleged kidnapping was false report

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – After a thorough two-month investigation, Penn State Police have determined that a reported kidnapping on Shortlidge Road on Jan. 28 near Simmons Hall did not occur.

Police have charged 20-year-old Samantha N. Sernekos, a student from New Jersey, with one count of "unsworn falsification to authorities" and a separate charge of "false reports to law enforcement authorities" for knowingly providing information that was not true. These actions are violations of Pennsylvania law and considered second-degree misdemeanors.

"Our preliminary investigation turned up no evidence that a crime had occurred. As the investigation progressed, the victim admitted to investigators that the incident did not happen as it was initially described," said Tyrone Parham, chief of University Police at University Park. "We spoke with witnesses and friends, looked at video from the area, obtained phone records, carefully worked through the times and dates provided and used all available technologies to determine that this individual was not kidnapped and there was no crime committed."

After learning of the alleged incident on Feb. 28, the University immediately sent out a "Timely Warning" as required by the federal Clery Act to advise the community and ask for help in solving the reported crime, and urging community members to use caution.

Parham said a kidnapping in the community is an unusual occurrence, however, he stressed continuing vigilance for community members:

-- Use the buddy system and walk with a friend or use the Safe Walk Service at 814-865-WALK (9255)
-- Report suspicious persons and activity immediately to 911 or 814-863-1111
-- Be aware of your surroundings and seek help if you feel endangered.


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Last Updated March 31, 2014