SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 16, 2013

Kidnap hoax charge dismissed

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — A judge yesterday dismissed the case against a Beverly woman who police say admitted making up an elaborate, if inconsistent, tale of being stalked and then kidnapped by Albanian men she met in a bar in June.

Maria Brayfield was due in court yesterday to be arraigned on a charge of filing a false police report, but her attorney convinced Salem District Court Judge Sabita Singh that his client did not receive notice of the charge and an opportunity to ask for a show cause hearing before a clerk magistrate before the criminal complaint was issued.

Lawyer Joseph Simons cited a provision in state law that entitles a person charged with a misdemeanor who has not been arrested to have such a hearing before a complaint against that person is issued.

The move still leaves police and prosecutors with the option of refiling the charge against Brayfield, which carries a potential penalty of up to a year in jail.

Steve O’Connell, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, said Beverly police will refile the charge.

Brayfield, 24, touched off a manhunt for two men who, she told police, had kidnapped her from her Beverly apartment in the early morning hours of June 17 and forced her to drive to Route 128. She told police the men then ordered her to pull over onto the shoulder near exit 17 in Wenham and climb into the trunk of her Ford Focus.

That’s where two other men found her after pulling over because they thought the Focus had been involved in an accident.

As they approached, Brayfield called out from the locked trunk, “Help me, it was Albanians.” The men smashed the rear window of the hatchback to gain access.

But police were suspicious, they later noted in a report. Brayfield still had her cellphone with her when she was found, but instead of calling police for help, she called a male friend with whom she’d spent part of the evening earlier.

Brayfield, according to a police report, said that she was with that friend and others at Black Lobster, a restaurant and bar in Salem, when she went to use the restroom and was approached by a group of Albanian men, who offered to buy her a drink and suggested that she work for them.

Brayfield said she was offered a ride home by the men but decided not to go with them.

She told police that she was home around 3 a.m. when she looked out her window and saw a black SUV outside, then suddenly realized there were men in her apartment. That is when they kidnapped her, she said.

Police subsequently went to the 13 Pleasant St. apartment house, which was dark and locked. One roommate said he heard someone stumbling around but said that was not unusual. Others said they hadn’t heard anything.

Brayfield eventually admitted to police that she had concocted the story because she feared being arrested for drunken driving, according to the police report. It remains unclear why she decided to go back out that night.

In the hours after the incident, which was highly publicized around the country, police announced that they would be seeking a charge of filing a false report against Brayfield.

In his court filings, Brayfield’s lawyer said his client insists she was never told about the charge.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.