Police: Woman lied about being set on fire

Published 10:43 pm Tuesday, October 23, 2012

WINNSBORO, La. (AP) — Forensic evidence indicates that a 20-year woman suffering from extensive burns set herself on fire then invented a story about being doused in flammable liquid by three men who she said also wrote the initials KKK and a racial slur on her car, state police said Tuesday.

On Sunday at 8 p.m., Sharmeka Moffitt called 911 from a walking trail in Winnsboro and told authorities she had been doused in flammable liquid by three men wearing white hoodies. She suffered extensive burns on more than half her body and was taken to LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport for treatment.

After two days of investigating the case, authorities said Tuesday that the forensic evidence indicates Moffitt set herself on fire.

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“The evidence does not support the statement that she was attacked by three males,” said Louisiana State Police spokeswoman Lt. Julie Lewis.

Lewis said Moffitt’s fingerprints were found on a lighter and lighter fluid recovered from the scene. Investigators also believe Moffitt used toothpaste to draw the KKK initials and racial slur on her vehicle. DNA evidence also points to Moffitt, she said.

Investigators have not been able to interview Moffitt because she remains in critical condition. Without speaking to her, it remains unclear why she might set herself on fire, Lewis said.

Police are handing the case over to the Franklin Parish District Attorney’s Office, which will decide whether to file charges against Moffitt, she said.

“I feel a hurt for the victim,” Winnsboro Police Chief Lester Thomas told a news conference Tuesday.

“Nobody knows, it could be you, it could be me, it could be one of our family members struggling like this,” added Franklin Parish Sheriff Kevin Cobb.

Several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, began looking into the alleged attack as a possible hate crime.