MADISON, Wis. - Police strongly suggested Friday that a college student's tale of being kidnapped at knifepoint was a hoax, saying she researched places to hide and bought rope and duct tape to make it look like an abduction.
"We do not believe there is a suspect at large, period," Assistant Police Chief Noble Wray said.
Surveillance video showed University of Wisconsin sophomore Audrey Seiler, 20, walking out of her apartment early Saturday wearing only sweats. She was found Wednesday in a marsh about two miles away - cold and dehydrated but otherwise unharmed.
Wray said police had videotape showing Seiler buying duct tape, rope and cold medicine, all items she had claimed her abductor used to restrain her. She also used her computer to search Web sites for information about Madison parks and the extended weather forecast, Wray said.
Wray said the check of her computer also indicated someone had used it during the four days Seiler was missing, and at least two witnesses said they had seen her walking freely in the city during that time.
Seiler had also reported an unexplained attack in early February, telling police that someone struck her from behind and knocked her unconscious. Seiler said she was then moved about a block from where she was attacked, authorities said.
Wray disclosed Friday that Seiler had changed her story about the supposed abduction. She said she was abducted by a knife-wielding man - but from somewhere else in the city, not from her apartment.
"Audrey stated that she just wanted to quote, unquote, be alone," Wray said.
Wray declined to speculate on Seiler's motivation or her mental state, and he said it was too soon to say whether she could face charges. Authorities are trying to construct a timeline of her movements, he said.
Seiler has been in seclusion with her parents since her release from a hospital Wednesday. A phone call to a listing for them in their hometown of Rockford, Minn., was not immediately returned.
Wray had acknowledged to reporters Thursday that "there may be inconsistencies" in the case. But he said then that the hunt was still on for a suspected abductor, and police issued a composite sketch based on Seiler's account.
On Friday, he said police were obligated to pursue the case fully despite their doubts. "We do not have the luxury of being able to speculate (and) draw conclusions before an investigation is completed," he said.
Ryan Fisher, Seiler's boyfriend, had not noticed any signs that Seiler was unhappy or having problems, his brother David said.
"He didn't see this coming. But he says he loves her and wants to be there for her," David Fisher said.