State police said Saturday that Rachael Lynn Mattice, whose June disappearance sparked a massive police search in Hamilton County, made up the whole story.
Mattice, 24, who lives in Johnstown, turned herself in to state police in Mayfield on Friday. She was arrested on a single misdemeanor count of falsely reporting an incident.
Mattice, who returned to her mother Wendy’s home during the early morning hours of July 6, told police she had been abducted and held captive for two weeks. Major William T. Keeler, commander of state police Troop G, said a man who encountered Mattice became a key part of the investigation.
“On July 18, information was developed regarding a witness that provided Rachael a ride from a trail head in Hamilton County to a seasonal camp in Canada Lake,” Keeler said during a press conference at troop headquarters in Latham. “That witness positively identified Rachael Mattice as the person he gave the ride to the camp. The camp itself belongs to the boyfriend of Rachael’s aunt. It was a place that Rachael has frequented and that she knows well.”
Keeler also said two other hikers in the area verified the driver’s account. He added that electronic evidence and medical evidence did not support Mattice’s story.
Police also said Mattice is sticking by her story — that she was a captive in a small shed for weeks in June and July.
“We’re saying nothing she said happened,” Keeler said. “It was all made up.”
Hamilton County Sheriff Karl G. Abrams said Mattice, who had recently secured employment as a home health aide with Hamilton County, was under investigation for a theft from an individual at the time of the disappearance. “At this point, there are no charges yet,” Abrams said.
The 10-day search involved dozens of troopers from the uniform, canine and aviation units, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department personnel, members of the Johnstown and Gloversville police departments, state Department of Environmental Conservation police, state forest rangers and volunteers. Keeler said 400 leads were followed in the case; the cost of the operation was in the six-figure range.
“We had helicopters up routinely,” Keeler said. “The full-court press was on. We behaved as if this actually occurred.”
Police also said the search was difficult, in hot weather over difficult, wooded Adirondack country.
“Hamilton County is the only county east of the Mississippi designated as frontier,” said Hamilton County Undersheriff Kevin Braunius. “It’s very rugged, it’s a very difficult place for searches.”
Mattice, who police said brought an attorney to some of her police interview sessions, was released on an appearance ticket. She will answer the charge in Mayfield Town Court on Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 3 p.m.
Police said no further charges are anticipated. And they do not expect Mattice will have to pay for any search costs. “It usually doesn’t work that way,” Keeler said.
Mattice told investigators she was abducted during the early morning hours of June 23 from her family’s camp in the Hamilton County town of Wells. “She told troopers she had been knocked out while getting ready for work,” Keeler said. “When she woke, she was locked in a small shed.”
Family members later found her car at the camp.
Mattice told police she was held captive and repeatedly assaulted for two weeks before her abductor bound and blindfolded her and drove her to Cayadutta Street and Warren Street in Johnstown on July 6. From there, Mattice told police, she went home.
On July 12, police released a sketch of a gray-haired, bearded man Mattice said kidnapped her. They said Saturday that the man does not exist.
The photo of Mattice police released Saturday shows the woman with a full head of hair on top, with close-cropped sides.
“That’s a little closer to what she looks like in normal, every-day life, compared to the ‘missing’ posters, how’s she’s made up,” said state police Senior Investigator Jeff Ullman, who works in the Fonda-Mayfield areas. “We didn’t pick those photos, there’s a stark difference.”
Keeler, when asked if he had ever worked a case like this one before, said only, “People lie to us all the time.”
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter. His blog is at www.dailygazette.com/weblogs/wilkin.