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Baboon on the loose? Girl starts false frenzy

August 21, 2010

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FLORISSANT, Mo.—Police in the St. Louis suburb of Florissant spent a big part of the day looking for a baboon on the loose. A grade school went into lockdown. A woman scattered potato chips on the ground and made monkey sounds to try and lure the primate. But in the end, a 14-year-old girl admitted it was all a hoax after the picture she claimed to have snapped proved to be one she actually found on the Internet.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the girl set off the frenzy Thursday by claiming she took a picture of the primate in her backyard. It was hours later that she told police she actually found the picture on the Internet and took a photo of it with her cell phone.

Police Chief William Karabas said the girl was sorry but she did not offer any explanation for the stunt.

"She was remorseful," Karabas said. "But the total emotional aspect of all this and the why is: who knows?"

The case will be referred to St. Louis County Family Court for review.

The girl's mother went to city officials and news media with the photo, prompting the search. It was after an identical photo was found in an Internet search that the story began to unravel.

Before that, schools took precautions, including keeping children in during recess. Chaos led to rumors. One woman in the neighborhood being searched said she owned a monkey. She made baboon-like noises and scattered Lays potato chips and Cheetos to try and lure the animal. Yet another woman who claimed to own a monkey walked around with a net.

Karabas said at least six extra officers were called in to help with the search.

Despite the trouble, the chief seemed more relived that no one was hurt than annoyed.

"You don't judge the people that do stuff like this, you just deal with it and move on to the next thing," Karabas said.

Adding to the confusion of the day was a statement released late Thursday by the girl's family, maintaining that such an animal was, in fact, on the loose in Florissant, and that the girl's story was not a hoax.

"While that particular animal was not that one, there is in fact something out in the area," the statement read, in part.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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