HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP, Pa. — After a report was issued on Tuesday notifying the public about a missing young woman, Pennsylvania State Police have confirmed the entire situation was a hoax after they say the woman admitted to making it all up.
“I think the biggest thing was, this entire community was very scared because of the information we had,” said Trooper Steve Limani.
According to initial reports, Chloe Stein, 23, was last seen leaving Sonic in Hempfield Township at 10:30 p.m. on Monday night. She allegedly texted her boyfriend shortly after saying she had been pulled over. Then, she seemed to vanish.
Stein was driving a Volkswagen Beetle. The car was found abandoned on Tuesday along Radebaugh Road. Police said the doors were locked, and her phone was left inside.
According to court documents, Stein told police she was abducted at gunpoint by an unknown man posing as a police officer, blindfolded, and led around to different areas in the county. Police said she also had minor cuts, which they said were self-inflicted.
Police want the public to know that there is no one impersonating police in the area.
“Westmoreland County, specifically the Hempfield area, was very alarmed and very concerned. And from the information we had, the way it was set up, I can understand why. Rightfully so,” Limani said.
A tip from Penn State helped police solve the case. They said Stein had not been attending classes. Previous information indicated Stein was a senior in college who was about to graduate. Her Instagram bio also indicated she was set to graduate, reading “PSU ‘23.”
“One of the things that came to light while we were searching for you was this college thing,” Limani said investigators said to Stein during questioning. “Your family thinks you’re graduating on Saturday. You know you’re not graduating on Saturday.”
Channel 11′s Andrew Havranek reached out to Penn State Greater Allegheny to find out when Stein was last enrolled as a student.
A representative with the university said Stein has not been enrolled at any Penn State campus since the fall 2018 semester.
“Now all of a sudden, as an investigator we’re thinking, ‘Well, wait a second. There’s alternatives. There’s reasons for her to “disappear,” to escape life,’” Limani said regarding the shift in the investigation from possible abduction to faking a disappearance.
After ditching her car, police said Stein walked three or four miles to Jeannette and stayed at the home of an acquaintance for about 21 hours.
Police clarified on Wednesday Stein actually stayed in a garage in an alley off of Wylie Avenue, where Stein and her family live.
A neighbor told Channel 11 off-camera Stein showed up on their porch on Tuesday. From there, the neighbor said they called Stein’s mom and the police.
Stein is now facing a list of charges for the incident: false alarm to an agency of public safety, false reports, obstruction of the administration of law and other governmental functions, and disorderly conduct.
Police said they spent tens of thousands of dollars in resources Tuesday, including sending a helicopter into the air on a bad weather day, which is something they would not have done if they didn’t believe she was in danger.
“People were at risk when it comes to law enforcement personnel,” Limani said. “We shouldn’t have been flying the helicopter when we did. We did it because we were concerned. We thought there was somebody in danger.”
Now, state police are working to total up the cost of all manpower involved in the search, from troopers from their agency on the ground, to other departments, to those operating the helicopter.
“We’re going to find out what the cost was and once we’re done getting a total we’re going to present it to the District Attorney’s office to see if restitution can be a part of whatever punishment is going to be imposed,” Limani said.
State police are also urging anyone involved in what they call Stein’s ‘elaborate lie’ to come forward.
“It would be a lot easier if you just came forward and were honest and upfront with us as opposed to us gathering data and getting information from someone else,” Limani said on Wednesday. “We’d rather the lies not continue.”
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