SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

June 28, 2013

Details of kidnap hoax emerge from court papers

Hoax: Police say woman's story changed many times

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — When she first spoke to a Beverly police officer in the moments after being freed from the trunk of her Ford Focus hatchback, Maria Brayfield offered a detailed account of her evening, court papers revealed for the first time yesterday.

There had been drinks with a friend at the Black Lobster in Salem, where five Albanian men offered to buy her a “Jack and Coke” and then suggested that she come work for them as a prostitute, she claimed. Then, later, there was a black vehicle outside her apartment that sort of looked like the one the Albanians had offered her a ride home in, according to the reports of her statements to police.

But Brayfield couldn’t explain other details: Why hadn’t she called police from the cellphone she still had with her when the men ordered her into the trunk? And how could two of the men have managed to get to her third-floor bedroom in the middle of the night without waking any of her four roommates?

Eventually, Brayfield, 24, confessed that she had made up a story about being kidnapped because she was concerned about getting arrested for drunken driving.

In the early-morning hours of June 17, however, Beverly, Wenham and state police scrambled to respond to Brayfield’s dramatic report of a kidnapping by two masked men. As police spoke with Brayfield and then took her to Beverly Hospital, other officers were at her Pleasant Street apartment, and still more officers and a state crime scene services technician were examining her car.

Police have filed a charge of making a false report of a crime, and Brayfield is due in Salem District Court for arraignment on Aug. 15.

According to court documents, police are expected to seek restitution for the costs of the intense, though ultimately brief, investigation.

Those documents, including police reports and witness statements, describe how two Gloucester men were driving on Route 128 when they spotted a car off the road.

Concerned that there might have been an accident, they pulled over. Then, they told police, they heard yelling from inside the car. “Help me, it was Albanians,” they say she yelled.

Unable to figure out how to open the hatchback, they grabbed a bat and smashed the back window.

Brayfield told the men that she had been forced into the trunk outside her home and driven there.

That was at odds with what she would later tell police, who say she told them that she was forced to drive her own car until they reached the spot where she was found, then ordered into the trunk.

Meanwhile, other officers went to Brayfield’s apartment, where they found the house dark and the door locked. No one heard their knocking. The property manager was contacted, but he didn’t have the correct key.

Ultimately, the fire department forced open the door. Three men and a woman, all of Brayfield’s roommates, were awakened by the noise.

None had heard anything that sounded like a kidnapping. The roommate who had the bedroom next to Brayfield told an officer he had heard footsteps at various times during the night and, around 3 a.m., the sound of someone “stumbling around,” but that there was nothing unusual about that. He said he’d gone back to sleep.

Still, Brayfield’s bedroom appeared to be in some disarray — a lamp was tipped over, her laptop still on but thrown face-down on the bed, a box of items and a wastebasket both tipped over.

Brayfield offered shifting accounts of her night, telling one officer that she had encountered five Albanian men at the Black Lobster, where she was drinking with a male friend. They offered her a ride, but her friend drove her home, and, she told the first officer, she believed the men had followed them.

After her friend left, she said, two men burst in, punched her, grabbed her, covered her mouth and told her if she cooperated, she would be OK. She said the men forced her to drive to the highway and then ordered her into the trunk.

She admitted that she had her cellphone with her in the trunk the entire time but tried only to call the friend she had been drinking with earlier, not police. Her purse was in the front seat.

Later, she was interviewed again by officers, telling them that she had spent her day with another friend, then went to Tavern in the Square in Salem for drinks. Then, she headed to the Black Lobster to meet another friend.

As she went to use the ladies room, she said the Albanian men approached, offering her a drink, which she accepted.

“Come work for us and make a lot of money,” she said they told her. She said she was “all set” and thanked them for the drink. But later that night, they approached again, offering her a ride.

In that interview, however, she said she was no longer sure who drove her home.

At home, she was on Facebook when she saw a black car outside, according to the report. She told a friend on Facebook, a man serving with the Army in Nuremberg, Germany, to call police, which he apparently did.

Then, two men came into her room, she told police.

Police expressed concern that she might have been sexually assaulted, and she agreed to go to the hospital with them to be examined. But at the hospital, she suddenly changed her mind.

And by this time, investigators had found no evidence of anyone else, such as fingerprints, in her car.

Police took her back to the station, where she soon admitted that she’d made the whole thing up because she was afraid of being charged with drunken driving.

The officers returned her laptop, her cellphone and her purse and told her where she could pick up her car.

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