Police & Fire

False reports of crash victim being stabbed and robbed spreading in three states including Utah

The Associated Press asserts that these reports are part of a hoax that has spread across three states

CLAIM: A photo circulating on social media shows an unidentified girl in a hospital bed “who was robbed, stabbed, and left for dead on the side of the road.”

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The reports are false, part of a hoax that has spread across the U.S. in states including Utah, Virginia and Mississippi. The photo is of a teenager who was critically injured in a 2016 car crash in Utah and has since recovered.

THE FACTS: Social media users are sharing the image on community Facebook pages, along with a plea to help identify the girl.

It shows a young woman in a hospital bed hooked up to multiple tubes, her eyes closed. She is wearing a blue hospital gown and has cuts on her face and hands.

“We urgently need assistance in identifying a young woman who was robbed, stabbed, and left for dead by the side of the road in St George,” reads a post that appeared in a St. George, Utah-area Facebook group. “She is currently in a coma, and the deputies are unable to identify her because she is missing her ID. Let’s bump this post so it may reach people who can be able to identify her.”

But the same photo and text — amended to change the location — have also cropped up in Augusta County, Virginia; Tunica County, Mississippi; and other U.S. locales in recent days.

A reverse image search for the photo shows it matches one that appeared in news articles about a car crash in 2016 that left Taylor Carlton, a 16-year-old from Veyo, Utah, critically injured and an 18-year-old friend dead.

The police department in St. George, located approximately 18 miles (29 kilometers) from Veyo, called the recent viral posts “false” on its Facebook page and pointed users to news articles about the 2016 crash. A Facebook post from the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office called the posts “fake” and “not true.”

In Tunica County, the sheriff’s office double checked the veracity of the claims, but came to the same conclusion, calling them “false information.”

“TCSO has been notified of this post and received several calls in reference to this,” the office wrote on its Facebook page. Our agency has no active investigation in reference to the information shared in this post. Additionally, our agency contacted all local area hospitals to ensure there was no individual in their care matching the description given in this post.”

According to a Facebook page created soon after the accident by Carlton’s sister-in-law to “keep the community up to date” on her health, Carlton survived her injuries and gave birth to a baby boy in 2018. The then-high school student recorded a Facebook Live video about a year after the accident in which she shows viewers her scars and speaks about the crash, as well as her recovery.

A GoFundMe started by Carlton’s cousin to raise money for her medical bills was last updated on June 6, 2016, to announce that Carlton had “been moved to rehabilitation.”

This is not the first time viral hoaxes have been spread largely through community Facebook pages. For example, in August users circulated a mug shot that supposedly showed a serial killer who was on the loose, The Associated Press reported at the time.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.


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