Almost two weeks ago, a bloodied and half-naked Breana Harmon Talbott burst into
the New Creation Church with a story so terrifying it sent residents in the small town of Denison, Texas into meltdown.
Congregation member Ana Bermudez threw a sheet over the petite blonde teen and listened in horror as she recounted her ordeal in a small, tremulous voice.
Talbot claimed three black men wearing ski masks had kidnapped her from her apartment and driven her to the woods behind the church, where two of the men took turns raping her while the third held her down.
"She was just in her T-shirt, with scratches on her, she was trembling she was so afraid," Bermudez told KXII.
The church's pastor, Saul Marquez, told Fox 4: "She was in bad shape. She was bleeding. They had to bring some sheets to cover her up and try to calm her down."
Her distraught fiance Sam Hollingsworth told reporters: "I can't really describe how she looked, it's just awful, it tore me up really badly", adding that she was robbed of "four rings, our engagement ring, class ring and a necklace in the shape of a heart."
We now know that Talbott, 18, was lying about everything, from the rapes to the scratches and cuts over her body that she later admitted were self-inflicted.
Police first became suspicious of her story after she was taken to the Texoma Medical Center in Denison for a physical examination.
"Almost from the beginning, we had doubts in Breana Harmon Talbott's story as the puzzle pieces just weren't coming together," Denison Police Chief Jay Murch said in a scathing statement issued yesterday.
"We were unable to corroborate any of Talbott's allegations that she had been abducted or sexually assaulted."
Despite their reservations, detectives continued their hunt for the three attackers.
Talbott finally came clean on March 21 after detectives confronted her over the worrying holes in her story; including the fact that hospital staff who examined her found no evidence of sexual assault and that the kidnap crime scene at her apartment appeared staged.
Before that point, she had stuck to her story for 12 days, under repeated questioning, while watching vigilante groups form as the fear in her community escalated and women refused to go outside in case they got snatched.
Talbott said nothing as social media went into meltdown over her story and neo-Nazi groups, employing liberal use of the N-word, called for the perpetrators to be lynched.
She watched silently as her mother wrote a Facebook post about the attack which drew hundreds of responses, most of them baying for the blood of the "black thugs" who "defiled" her.
The now-deleted post by Kim Harmon Talbott said: "This is going to be a brutally honest post. Today my daughter was taken by force by 3 black men. 2 raped her and she is cut head to toe by a knife. ... Someone had to have saw something!!! This town is small, if anyone, anyone hears ANYTHING, please call the Denison Police Department".
After declaring Talbott's complaint "UNFOUNDED" (in caps) Denison Police Chief Jay Burch ripped into the teen in a blistering press release that ran two pages long. Over several hundred words, he described the hurt and damage Talbott's lies had inflicted on the community and its reputation.
"This alleged crime as reported by Breana Harmon Talbott made many in the community fearful there were individuals abducting women," Chief Burch wrote in the March 22 release.
"(The) hoax was also insulting to our community and especially offensive to the African-American community due to her description of the so-called suspects in her hoax. The anger and hurts (sic) caused from such a hoax are difficult and all so unnecessary.
"Many persons fell victim to Breana Harmon Talbott's hoax, the police were quickly disparaged by Talbott's family and friends. Social media comments and opinions were out of control, making it difficult to focus on solving this case.
"It's unfortunate a person can falsely report such a major incident in our community that wastes the time of law enforcement, and needlessly puts some people in fear. I apologize (sic) to those who have current investigations with the department as we delayed those to focus on the case."
Police say they still have no idea what motivated Talbott to invent such a hideous story but it has since emerged she was reported missing in 2014, sparking a huge manhunt before reappearing safe and sound two days later.
That incident has never been publicly explained.
Talbott's fiance Sam Hollingsworth, who broke up with her after her lies were exposed, was the first to report her missing. He raised the alarm after discovering Talbott's flat empty with the back door hanging open and her keys, mobile phone and a single shoe strewn nearby.
He told KDFW-TV that he and Talbott had a fight over whether the couple would move after he joined the Army but said he has no clue why that would prompt her to stage a gang rape.
"I was hurt. It was hard to take in whenever I found out about everything," Mr Hollingsworth told the news station.
"Somebody that I actually trusted and was planning on spending the rest of my life with could do something like this to me and everybody else in this community."
Talbott, a recent graduate of Denison High School, works as a patient care technician at Carrus Speciality and Rehabilitation Hospitals, according to her Facebook page.
She has also studied nursing at Grayson College. On Wednesday, the teen was charged with
making a false report to a peace officer, a class B misdemeanour. The crime carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to US$2000.
Chief Burch said the department "will also seek restitution for the significant costs for conducting such a major investigation".