Police: Palos Heights Girl Made Up Abduction, Rape Story

Claim sparked manhunt following Sept. 17 incident

CHICAGO -- The parents of a 17-year-old southwest suburban girl who claimed she was abducted and raped last month released a statement Friday saying their daughter made up the story, the SouthtownStar is reporting.

The Stagg High School senior sparked a widespread manhunt Sept. 17 when she claimed she had been kidnapped from the T.J. Grinders sandwich shop, at 12250 South Harlem Avenue, and was sexually assaulted.

Police initially treated the girl's claims as legitimate, but suspicions arose after physical evidence collected in the hours after the alleged attack failed to substantiate her story.

Rumors about the case have swirled in the community and at Stagg over the last two weeks.

The case shocked the community and stoked anti-Arab sentiment in the area after she described her attacker as an olive-skinned man between 35 and 40, and helped with an artist's rendition of the alleged attacker.

She claimed she had twice texted a friend earlier in the evening, telling him she had spotted a suspicious customer lurking outside the store looking at her. When the suspicious man returned as she was closing the store, she claimed, she called her friend and asked him to come get her.

When the friend arrived at the store minutes later, she was missing and her possessions were scattered on the ground outside. The friend called 911 and police immediately began searching for the girl.

Officers were at the girl's home, interviewing her parents, when she walked up the driveway, dishevelled and barefoot, claiming to have been raped, police said

The girl surprised many when she joined the hunt for her "attacker" in the following days, handing out fliers to passers-by on Harlem Avenue, against police advice.

The investigation -- which attracted the interest of the "America's Most Wanted" TV show, is estimated to have cost in excess of $200,000 so far.

The girl could now face charges of filing a false police report and obstructing justice.

The lawyer for the family, Martin Dolan, issued a statement on behalf of the family expressing gratitude and remorse.

"We offer our deepest apologies to the community," the statement began. "We apologize for the unnecessary concern and the time and effort from everyone involved."

Dolan asked the community for prayers for the family and urged restraint of criticism or anger as the family moves forward.

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