It’s March in the close-knit community of Denison, Texas, when 18-year-old Breana Harmon Talbott rushes through the doors of a local church. Partially nude and covered in blood, she claims to have been the victim of a violent attack. And, soon, Breana’s story whips the community into a furious frenzy – but is everything really as it seems?
Growing up in the town of Pottsboro, Texas, Breana was just a young teen when she began a relationship with Samuel Hollingsworth in April 2016. And within seven months from their first date, the pair were engaged. Then, by March 2017, Breana had graduated from high school and taken a job at the nearby Carrus Speciality and Rehabilitation Hospital, where she was employed as a patient care technician.
Meanwhile, Samuel – a self-described patriot – had ambitions to join the Army. On March 7, 2017, however, the young lovers got into a spat about their future plans. Apparently, they argued about where they would live after Samuel started his military career. Perhaps nothing could have prepared him for the bizarre twist that events were about to take, though.
When a worried Hollingsworth reported that he couldn’t get a hold of Breana, he asked one of her neighbors to look in on his fiancée. And, chillingly, the neighbor saw that Breana’s vehicle had one of its doors open – but the teenager herself was nowhere to be seen.
Even more disturbingly, Breana’s keys and a single shoe had both also apparently been abandoned on the ground. At approximately 5:30 p.m. on March 8, then, Samuel telephoned the police to report the troubling incident, after which authorities began on a quest for the missing woman.
During the search effort, officers equipped with dogs scoured the area from where Breana had apparently disappeared. Then, at 8:00 p.m., they received a disturbing telephone call from the New Creation Church, which is located less than two miles from Breana’s apartment building.
According to the person on the other end of the line, a congregation had been gathered at the church when a woman had rushed into the building seeking assistance. They said that the visitor was dressed in only a shirt and underwear and had bloody scratches on her body.
Then, while churchgoers attempted to comfort the woman, the police were called. “She was in bad shape,” Pastor Saul Marquez told KDFW not long after the reported incident. “She was bleeding. They had to bring some sheets to cover her up and try to calm her down. As a church, we’re here for a reason. It’s a good thing she found some refuge here.”
Soon, it was confirmed that the woman was indeed Breana. Apparently, she told police that she had been kidnapped while exiting her car outside her apartment building. And although she did not know her alleged attackers, she was nevertheless able to give a description of them. They had been, Breana said, a trio of black males wearing ski masks and driving an SUV.
According to Breana, her captors had then driven her to an area of woodland close to the church. There, she claimed that one of the men had restrained her while the other two had raped her. Breana further asserted that the three had attacked her with a blade and stolen all of her jewelry.
And after Breana had been taken to be examined at the hospital, her mother Kim took to social media to voice her horror at her daughter’s alleged attack. “Today my daughter was taken by force by three black men. Two raped her, and she is cut head to toe with a knife,” she wrote. “Someone had to have saw something!!! This town is small, [and] if anyone, anyone hears ANYTHING, please call the Denison police department.”
Breana’s fiancé was seemingly deeply upset at the news too. “I can’t really describe how she looked. It’s just awful, [and] it tore me up really badly,” he is reported to have said. However, even though the police visited the scene of the alleged crime and closely searched the area for clues, they were unable to find anything that may have led to Breana’s attackers.
Still, the apparent lack of evidence didn’t stop social media from going into overdrive in reaction to Breana’s alleged attack. “Lord, find these animals [and] give them what they deserve,” one user wrote in response to Kim’s emotional post. Meanwhile, another speculated that the formation of a vengeful “white mafia” could be the solution to such incidents.
In fact, several commenters were quick to assert that racism was at play in the reporting of the incident, claiming that the media was hushing up the case because the alleged attackers were black. Apparently, a number of people believed that the incident would have been treated differently had the men been white.
Soon, the usually safe community of Denison was in the grip of paranoia. Women were reportedly afraid to leave their houses alone, while clans of prospective vigilantes threatened to dole out their own version of justice. While all this was going on, though, investigators had begun to grow suspicious of Breana’s claims.
Indeed, within days of the alleged attack, detectives had noticed that things weren’t quite adding up. They could find no evidence to back up Breana’s claims of sexual assault, for one. In addition, the heated discussion on social media was making it harder for the police to get to the bottom of the allegations.
For two weeks, though, investigators said nothing about their suspicions. “It was my decision to delay notifying the public until we had 100 percent confirmation [the kidnapping and rape] didn’t happen,” Jay Burch, the chief of the Denison Police Department, wrote in a statement dated March 22, 2017. “Plus, we wanted to ensure we did everything we could on the remote chance there was any truth to the alleged crime.”
Apparently, the evening before, Breana had confessed: she had faked the entire thing. Shockingly, the kidnap scene had been staged, and the teenager had cut herself with a knife to give the appearance of a violent attack. In the statement, Burch confirmed that the whole thing had been a ruse and highlighted the damage that Breana’s lies had done to the local community – particularly the city’s African-American population.
But why did Breana decide to stage such a horrific crime? Currently, nobody knows for sure – although she may have been prompted by the fight with her fiancé. “It was hard to take in whenever I found out about everything,” Samuel later told KDFW. “Somebody that I actually trusted and was planning on spending the rest of my life with could do something like this to me and everybody else in this community.”
Whatever Breana’s motivation, though, many may argue that her punishment has been too light. Charged with a Class B misdemeanor, she faced a maximum of 180 days behind bars along with a fine that could have totaled as much as $2,000. However, on March 20, 2018, Brenna received eight years’ probation, meaning she will never see the inside of a jail cell for her allegations. And even though she was also ordered to make more than $8,000 in restitution payments, this sum may seem a small price to pay for the lasting damage that her lies have caused.