Prosecutor:No crimes committed n soldier hoax

By Gus Bode

Father of hoax victim trying to pass legislation against child exploitation

It was an intricate lie, lasting for more than two years and involving a large cast of characters, but the woman who acted out an elaborate hoax about a girl and her soldier father did not break any laws – at least in Jackson County.

Jackson County State’s Attorney Michael Wepsiec said last week it was likely no charges would be filed against SIUC alumna Jaimie Reynolds, which he confirmed to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Monday.

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“I can’t see a crime here,” Wepsiec told the Post-Dispatch.

For more than two years, Reynolds pretended to be Colleen Hastings, guardian of eight-year-old Kodee Kennings whose father, Dan Kennings, was supposedly serving in Iraq.

The story of the girl’s plight at home first appeared in the Daily Egyptian in 2003 and was followed by numerous columns and letters penned by the blonde tomboy. Reynolds, posing as Hastings, befriended many in the newsroom, until it was revealed in August that Kodee and Dan Kennings did not exist.

University police began investigating the hoax shortly after, submitting a report of their findings to Wepsiec about two weeks ago. SIUC Police Chief Todd Sigler has said the investigation was focused on crimes relating to the University.

Although Wepsiec has said Reynolds committed no crimes in Jackson County, the report may have been sent to other agencies.

When Reynolds last spoke with the Daily Egyptian in late September, she had obtained a lawyer and declined further comment. She did not return calls for comment Monday.

Reynolds has said she unknowingly recruited friends and family members to execute the hoax in order to help Michael Brenner, the former Daily Egyptian reporter who first wrote of the girl. Reynolds said Brenner concocted the story to help his career and she went along with the idea because he was her friend.

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Brenner vehemently denies any knowledge of the hoax.

The girl whose face appeared in print was Caitlin Hadley of Montpelier, Ind. Caitlin and her parents believed she was starring in a documentary film about the soldier and his daughter, which was being recorded with hidden cameras.

The man who posed as Sgt. Dan Kennings was Patrick Trovillion, of Vienna, who said Reynolds paid him to appear in the Daily Egyptian newsroom.

Caitlin’s father, the Rev. Richard Hadley, said Monday he was disappointed no charges will be filed against the woman who misled his family but was not surprised.

Since learning of the hoax, Hadley said he has been working with Indiana lawmakers to create legislation that would make it illegal for people to transport minors across state borders for “deceitful purposes.” Hadley gave Reynolds, who was then a family friend, permission to take Caitlin but was unaware that the girl was often left under the supervision of newsroom staff.

Hadley said passing the legislation will be difficult, particularly since interest in the hoax has faded. He said his daughter seems to be trying to find a place for herself after years of being deceived.

“She’s trying to grow up and grow out of this,” Hadley said.

Reporter Monique Garcia can be reached at [email protected]

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