Columbus police say a report of a four-year-old missing child has turned out to be a fabrication.
During her court arraignment on theft charges Monday, 34-year-old Tyesha Jefferson reported that her daughter Briana Jefferson was missing. Police issued a missing child alert. They also reached out to police and the media in Pittsburgh where Jefferson was known to have some family.
Lt. Bill Laff told NBC4 that detectives were unable to verify the child’s identity and Jefferson became less and less cooperative. “…but we erred on the side of caution,” Laff said. “We didn’t want to leave a four-year-old missing out there without attempting to find her.”
Tuesday, friends and relatives in Pittsburgh saw the story online and identified the girl in the photo as Jeriyah Barber. They confirmed for police that the girl is now a teenager and she is not and never has been missing.
“I don’t understand why she did it,” said Bri Law, Jeriyah’s aunt. “I have questions – why would you do that, you caused panic everywhere.”
Law says Tyesha Jefferson is a family member and it appears she took the old photograph from a relative’s Facebook page.
Law says her niece learned on social media at school Tuesday in Pittsburgh that her picture as a four year old was circulating as that of a missing child.
“She was freaking out and…she ended up crying as well,” Law said. “And then she asked me ‘was I missing when I was four years old’ and I’m like ‘no you were never missing, ever.’”
Lt. Laff says Tyesha Jefferson could now face charges for filing a false report.
“It’s very frustrating to have someone misuse the system in this manner and waste our time as well as take our time away from other investigations.”