The library books on multiple births crowded the couple’s coffee table. The bedroom-turned-nursery awaited the arrival of six newborns.
But in the end, authorities say Sarah and Kris Everson never had the sextuplets as claimed. All they had was what appears to be a big lie.
The couple’s dramatic story had holes in it from the start – from their mysterious withholding of information for more than a month to the unanimous response of area hospitals that they hadn’t helped deliver the newborns.
On Tuesday, authorities said the mystery had been solved – the entire tale was deemed a hoax aimed at tapping the generosity of others to pay the couple’s mounting bills.
“I have never dealt with anything like this,” Police Chief Aaron Ambrose said. “The level of fraud like this involving people, I have not.”
Gary Bradley, the city administrator, said charges against the Eversons were forthcoming. Prosecutors had not yet determined how much the couple profited from the scam or whether they would qualify for charges beyond the municipal level.
The Eversons — Sarah, 45, and Kris, 33 — claimed to have given birth to four boys and two girls on March 8. The babies were apparently in intensive care.
The tale exploded in the local spotlight Monday when The Examiner in Independence ran on its front page a photograph of the couple holding six one-piece baby outfits and announcing the births.
Those who heard the Eversons’ sad story of tight finances set up a Web site to solicit contributions — including a van, washer and dryer, cash and gift certificates. A real estate agent was even working to find the family new housing.
Hours before admitting it was a scam, Sarah Everson showed an Associated Press reporter pictures of her in maternity clothes, her baring a huge pregnant-looking midsection, even sonogram images she claimed were of her infants. She showed off a tiny nursery, a closet full of baby clothes and the tiny diapers premature newborns must wear.
She said the entire story of her children’s births was being kept secret by a court order enacted because a member of her husband’s family was trying to kill the Eversons and their new sextuplets.
“I’m so afraid they’re not going to make it,” she sobbed. “Nobody understands how hard this is. I know that they’re here. I know what I had to go through to get them here.”
Sarah Everson said a detective begin questioning her Tuesday evening; Bradley and Ambrose said the Eversons were interviewed at the police station for about an hour, during which they revealed the story was a scam. They were released pending charges.
After the Examiner’s initial story, the AP did not publish a story or transmit photos about the sextuplets over concerns of accuracy.
Reached by phone late Tuesday, Sarah Everson offered no explanation. “I’m not talking to anybody right now,” she said, “because nobody gets it.”
The Web site soliciting gifts was taken down Tuesday night.
Examiner Editor Dale Brendel said he was considering a front-page column to readers addressing the issue. He said the incident would force a review of his reporters’ verification practices.
“I think that we fell victim to the hoax. There were people out in the community who were doing fund-raisers already, and we feel bad for them and for us that we were the victims of that,” Brendel said. “In retrospect, there were things we could have done better from a newspaper standpoint, in terms of our investigations and trying to flesh out some of the red flags there were about the story.”