CARBONDALE, Ill. – A woman who fabricated a story about a nonexistent soldier in Iraq gave extensive written scripts to the “actors” in the hoax, coached them about their demeanor and their fictional personal histories and even provided them with wardrobes and fake military tattoos, according to a police report.

The report, by the Southern Illinois University police, provides a detailed account of the elaborate hoax by former SIU student Jaimie Reynolds. She concocted a story of a local girl pining for her soldier-father and got SIU’s campus newspaper to print it, starting in 2003.

The police report, obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch through the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, indicates that Reynolds expended significant amounts of her own time and money and drew in numerous unwitting accomplices to maintain a hoax that lasted two years.

In a Sept. 6 interview with police, according to the report, Reynolds laid out the mechanics of the scheme and apologized for it.

“Reynolds told us she wanted to apologize for lying to so many people for so long, and she did not mean to hurt anyone,” an SIU police officer wrote in the report.

The report does not address a motive. The report concludes that Reynolds didn’t profit from the scheme, meaning there probably won’t be criminal charges. It also found no evidence to support her claim that an SIU student journalist put her up to the hoax to help his career.

SIU’s newspaper, the Daily Egyptian, published two years’ worth of touching but fictitious articles about precocious little “Kodee Kennings” and her letters to her father, “Sgt. Dan Kennings,” serving in Iraq.

It came out in August that the little girl, the soldier and others were playing roles concocted by Reynolds, who told the participants she was filming a documentary.

The report says Reynolds told the actors they were being filmed with hidden cameras when they talked with student journalists in the campus newsroom and when they addressed a Detroit church congregation in 2004 and 2005.

The police report quotes Marion, Ill., resident Patrick Trovillion – a registered nurse whom Reynolds recruited to play Kennings – as saying that Reynolds provided his military clothing, paid for a military-style haircut and even had a friend draw military tattoos on him as part of the act. She paid him $500 in all for several appearances as “Sgt. Kennings.”

Trovillion also gave police the typewritten script Reynolds gave him to memorize as part of his role, complete with parenthetical notes telling him what facial expressions to use.

“On April 22, during major combat, we conducted one of the longest air assaults by helicopter in history … (raised eyebrows, be VERY serious),” reads one of the scripts. “… We were continuing to train Iraqi security forces, patrol the streets and detain insurgents (tone low, sorry almost).”

The child was actually Caitlin Hadley, the 10-year-old daughter of an Indiana couple Reynolds knew.

The police investigation was to determine whether any laws were broken. The report concludes that Reynolds spent her own money, and at one point returned more than $200 to the Detroit church, after its members tried to donate the money to Kodee. Based on the report, a local prosecutor this week declined to file criminal charges.

In her interview with police, Reynolds, who lives in Marion, reiterated her allegation that the hoax was the idea of former SIU student journalist Michael Brenner, who wrote the first “Kodee” story in 2003.

Reynolds told police that Brenner talked her into conducting the hoax to give him a good story, and that he threatened to have her arrested, or to commit suicide, when she tried to stop.

Brenner has vehemently denied any involvement, saying he was duped with the rest of Reynolds’ acquaintances. The police report concludes: “There is no physical evidence … to link Brenner to the scam.”

Brenner, 25, who now works for an advertising publication in Chicago, said Wednesday that the whole incident “still keeps me up nights.”

“It’s something I’m trying to completely forget.”

A woman who answered the door at Reynolds’ home this week said Reynolds had no comment.



(c) 2005, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Visit the Post-Dispatch on the World Wide Web at http://www.stltoday.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-10-19-05 1935EDT


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