The Sideshow

Texas sheriff’s office sued after bogus mass grave claim from ‘psychic’

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Police search for "mass graves" at the rural Texas home in 2011 (AP/KPRC-TV)

Joe Bankson and Gena Charlton have filed a lawsuit against the Liberty County Sheriff's Office and several media organizations after the Texas couple made global headlines in 2011 when their property was searched for a "mass grave" that was later debunked as nothing more than a bad tip from an alleged psychic.

"Not a single body was found buried in the backyard," attorney Andrew B. Sommerman told The Dayton News. "This all started with a psychic who gave them (the sheriff's office) a tip — a bad psychic who had given the sheriff's office tips in the past that were wrong."

Along with the sheriff's office, Sommerman says the couple is filing suits alleging false statements against several media organizations, including KPRC, Belo Corp. The New York Times, CNN America, Thompson Reuters and ABC News.

The Dallas Observer reports that in their lawsuit, the couple alleges the search resulted in "mental anguish," financial loss and "substantial damages" to their reputations.

When asked what the couple hopes to achieve, Sommerman said, "A little dignity. Vindication … At least now everyone will know the truth."

In June 2011, local officials, the FBI and several national media organizations descended on the property as reports began to circulate that 25-30 bodies were buried on the grounds. After a search that Sommerman says left extensive damage to the property, police were forced to admit that their only "evidence" had come in the form of a tip from a 48-year-old grandmother, and self-described psychic, going by the name of "Angel."

In their lawsuit, which was filed last week in the 193rd Judicial District in Dallas, Bankson and Charlton claim they have been unable to return to their rented home because, "everyone looks at them askance because of the accusations made against them."

The couple also alleges that the sheriff's office failed to secure their property after what they call an "unreasonable search."

"This situation was handled okay on our end. It checked out for us," Liberty County Sheriff Henry Patterson told the Dayton News. "I am not worried about our part of it. Everyone (the media) at that location was told that nothing was going on and we couldn't stop what happened."

The couple is also reportedly trying to sue "Angel," who is listed as a Jane Doe in the lawsuit, but they have as yet been unable to obtain her legal name.

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