Sharmeka Moffitt, a 20-year-old African-American woman from Louisiana who said three men involved with the KKK burned her alive, actually set herself on fire in a fabricated racist attack, police said.
CBS affiliate KSLA reported that police believe Moffitt set herself on fire and self-inflicted the third-degree burn wounds that landed her in critical condition in the hospital on Sunday.
Moffitt initially said she was attacked by three men who wrote the letters “KKK,” a reference to the Ku Klux Klan, on the hood of her car in white paste, doused her in a flammable liquid and set her on fire in a park in Winnsboro, La.
Police said after investigating for two days, evidence proved that she actually set herself on fire. Winnsboro Police Chief Lester Thomas said evidence linked Moffitt's fingerprints to a lighter and a bottle of lighter fluid found at the scene.
"The investigation...has revealed that this was not an attack but a self-inflicted incident that happened to her," Thomas said Tuesday.
Her family released a statement on Tuesday after the press conference with police.
"Our family is devastated to learn the circumstances surrounding our daughter's injuries," the statement said. "While this was not the resolution we had expected, it is a resolution, and we appreciate the thorough investigation by the local and state police as well as federal agencies. We are sincerely sorry for any problems this may have caused and wish to express our appreciation for the outpouring of love, prayers and support we have received from friends, acquaintances, church organizations and government officials. Over the coming days and weeks, our focus will be on Sharmeka and her recovery."
Moffitt remains in critical condition at the Regional Burn Center at LSU Medical Center, where she has burns on more than half of her body.
"Both of her arms, and they are third degree burns, down her chest and legs -- one. Basically her arms are real bad," Edna Moffitt told WAFB.
The Facebook page which was dedicated to Sharmeka Moffitt called “Prayers for Sharmeka Moffitt,” which now has almost 50,000 “likes,” received a flood of messages after news broke that Moffitt actually wasn’t attacked and rather set herself on fire. One commenter wrote:
“If this is the story of a young woman who needed mental health care and was desperate enough to let it come to this I hope it will be a call for improving access to mental health treatment and dissolving the stigma associated with seeking help. Nobody should have to suffer to this point of desperation.”