Lawyer: WV mother charged in fake abduction case not racist

ANTHONY IZAGUIRRE

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia woman charged with concocting a story about an Egyptian man trying to kidnap her daughter isn't a racist, her lawyer said Thursday.

Santana Renee Adams, 24, was initially hailed as a hero after claiming she used a gun to thwart a brazen, mid-day kidnapping of her 5-year-old in April. But her story quickly began to unravel when no witnesses could be found and mall surveillance video didn't match up with her original statement.

Now she's been charged with falsely reporting an emergency incident and has a bench trial date scheduled for November.

Her lawyer, Kathryn Cisco-Sturgell, issued a statement Thursday trying to clear the air.

"I don't perceive nor find her to be the type of person who is prejudice in any manner," she said. "Interestingly, she has close family members who reside in Egypt."

Adams' story grabbed national headlines and was bolstered by vivid details in a criminal complaint about how a Middle Eastern man snatched her daughter by the hair and dragged her across the floor of a clothing store. Mohamed Fathy Hussein Zayan, a 54-year-old engineer from Alexandria, Egypt, who was in West Virginia for work, was swiftly arrested near a mall food court and later jailed.

"It wasn't Mohamed Fathy Hussein Zayan's ethnicity that made Santana react the way that she did; it was her perception of potential harm to her daughter, Ellie," Cisco-Sturgell said.

Then the story began to fall apart.

Adams began changing her account upon questioning and said she might have misinterpreted Zayan's intentions, according to authorities. Police said he may have simply been patting the girl on the head.

Zayan was released from jail and cried as he greeted family members. Abduction charges against him were dropped. He left the country shortly after, with police driving him to the airport.

Adams turned herself in days after making the initial accusation. She is facing a misdemeanor charge that carries up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.