Now that the mystery of Audrey Seiler’s whereabouts has been solved, a deeper mystery remains: Why did the popular, attractive, seemingly stable University of Wisconsin sophomore apparently fake her own abduction? Why did she spark national headlines, send police and volunteers scouring the streets and a local marsh and cause untold anguish to family and friends? “She is the perfect girl,” says lifelong pal Stephanie Jones, 20, who grew up with Seiler in Rockford, Minn. “That’s why this is so strange.”
It appeared a tragedy in the making on March 27, when at 2:30 a.m. Seiler—caught on security video—left her dorm and vanished into the night. Friends feared the worst: On Feb. 1, Seiler had told police she had been attacked—knocked out and dragged a block near her building. Had the assailant come back? Dread turned to joy on March 31 when police found her in a marsh, cold and dehydrated but unharmed. Authorities launched a hunt for her alleged abductor—and within two days it was called off: Seiler’s story was flimsier than Paris Hilton‘s résumé. Most damning, she claimed her abductor had used a knife, duct tape and rope, all found in the marsh. A store video revealed she herself had bought those items days earlier.
By April 2 Seiler had admitted lying about being grabbed outside her dorm; she told cops she had wanted “to be alone.” Now she’s undergoing psychiatric treatment and her parents, Stephanie and Keith, have hired an attorney. Friends remain supportive. “We’re happy she’s back,” says Jones, one of hundreds of volunteers who helped police search. “We just hope she gets the help she needs.”