(ROTHVILLE, Mo.) — A Rothville, Mo., woman, who had been reported missing along with her young daughter, allegedly faked her abduction, according to the county sheriff.
Rachel Koechner, 28, and her 4-year-old daughter, Zoee Sandner, were reported missing last Thursday night by Koechner’s mother and boyfriend after the boyfriend received a text that read “help me.” They had last seen the pair earlier that same day, Brenda Koechner, Rachel’s mother, said.
“I didn’t know what to think,” Brenda Koechner said.
The elder Koechner says she was worried and didn’t have a clue as to where her daughter and granddaughter might be.
Police received information that Koechner and her daughter had been spotted in the nearby town of Brookfield that same day, where Devon Sandner, Koechner’s ex-husband and the father of her child, lives, so it was believed they might all be together, Chariton County Sheriff Chris Hughes said.
Koechner’s family did not hear from her again until Monday morning when she called her boyfriend to tell him she was OK and to call off the search. Koechner later told police she had seen a television report that morning about her being missing, the sheriff said.
“The boyfriend said it sounded like she was being coached or like she was reading a statement,” Hughes said. The sheriff’s office was able to trace the phone number she called from, which led them to a motel in Blue Springs, Mo., a suburb of Kansas City.
“When I called the hotel and asked if they were staying there, the hotel worker said, ‘Yes, they are checking out,’ and passed the phone to Rachel,” Hughes said.
When he told Koechner who he was and asked if she was OK, she answered “no,” the sheriff said. Hughes said when he told her help was on the way she got off the phone and left.
Hughes notified the Blue Springs Police Department and by the time they arrived at the hotel Koechner and her daughter were gone. The hotel clerk was able to give a description of the vehicle and confirmed that a man, later determined to be Devon Sandner, was with them.
Later that night, their vehicle was spotted more than 100 miles away back in the town of Brookfield. Linn County Sheriff’s deputies and the Missouri State Highway Patrol went to Sandner’s home and located the three of them.
Hughes said when he interviewed Koechner she admitted the initial text was a fake and alluded to the fact that she and her ex-husband had been planning to go off together.
She was being held in the Chariton County Jail and Hughes said he expected formal charges to be brought Tuesday.
Sgt. Josh Hawkins of the Linn County Sheriff’s Department said Devon Sandner is in custody after his arrest on an outstanding warrant for forgery.
The couple’s daughter was initially placed in the custody of the Division of Family Services, but was later turned over to her maternal grandmother.
“She is well and doing good,” Brenda Koechner said.
And while she is now concentrating on taking care of her granddaughter, Brenda Koechner said the whole situation has left her confused.
“I do not understand it,” she said. “We are so confused about the whole ordeal. I go from anger, confused, hurt.”
The elder Koechner said her daughter has been divorced from Sandner since last year.
A search of court documents in Missouri show the couple have had at least one instance of domestic violence in 2007 in which Sandner pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic assault.
Another case against Sandner was brought earlier this year by an unidentified woman who filed a domestic abuse complaint in January. That case is scheduled to be heard in April.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Parija Kavilanz, CNN
Matt McFarland, CNN
Madeline Holcombe, CNN
Andreas Preuss, CNN