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Woman: I made up Milford carjacking story as cry for help

Union Leader Correspondent

November 19. 2012 3:39PM
Mari Chapman of Milford, who has been arrested for making a false report to law enforcement. 

Police say she cried wolf, but Mari Chapman said it was a cry for help when she claimed she had been a victim of a brutal assault and attempted carjacking last week.

On Thursday morning, Chapman, 33, called police and said that as she was driving on Federal Hill Road near Foster Road, she pulled over to help two people in a black Honda Civic. Chapman alleged that while she was helping the couple, she reached into her Jeep to get the jack and the man attacked her from behind, throwing her to the ground and threatening to steal her car.

Chapman told police, and later the news media, that she fought him off even after he punched her.

She described the couple in great detail, and even gave a partial Massachusetts license plate number for the vehicle police now say never existed.

As investigators continued to question Chapman, the story started to unravel.

'Our investigators kept running into inconsistencies,' Milford Police Chief Michael Viola said. 'But we had to continue investigating it as though a crime had been committed.'

On Monday, an arrest warrant was issued by the 9th Circuit Court in Milford for Chapman on one misdemeanor count of false report to a law enforcement officer. She turned herself in to police Monday afternoon, Viola said, and was released on $5,000 personal recognizance bail.

Reached by phone Monday evening, Chapman said the story she told police and the news media wasn't true.

'I have bipolar disorder and I went off one of my medications,' she said. 'That was a stupid thing to do and I shouldn't have done it, but things have been really bad.'

Chapman said she is currently separated from her husband of 12 years and the arguments between them have been painful.

At the same time, she said, she is caring for her daughter as well as another child, and trying to balance that with working as a newspaper delivery driver.

'A lot of things have been thrown my way,' she said. 'I kept telling my husband and my sister that I hadn't been sleeping well. I was at my breaking point.'

Chapman said that while she was driving her car on Federal Hill last Thursday morning, her mind just went blank. 'It was like I was out of touch with reality, like I was in another world,' she said. And she truly believed at the time she reported the carjacking that the incident had happened, she said, 'but by the next day, I started thinking that something didn't feel right.'

As for the bruise on her face, Chapman said she thinks she got it when she got out of bed, tripped over her dog and fell.

Viola said investigators had questions about the case early on.

'Based on the information we had at the time, we needed to treat this case as we would the report of any serious crime,' said Viola.

Chapman's story created problems both for the police department and for the community, the chief said. 'We tied up a lot of resources investigating this case, resources that could have gone to solving actual crimes,' said Viola. He added: 'People don't feel safe when they hear stories like this.'

Chapman is scheduled for arraignment in Milford District Court Dec. 17.

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