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Police stop short of calling abduction a hoax

But 'inconsistencies' in student's story end search for suspect

Hundreds of police, relatives and community members searched four days for Audrey Seiler before she appeared Wednesday.

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University of Wisconsin

MADISON, Wisconsin (CNN) -- Police are not calling Audrey Seiler's disappearance a hoax, but they are not searching for an alleged abductor.

"Due to continuing inconsistencies ... and a lack of any evidence to support her allegations ... we do not believe that there is a suspect at large, period," Madison Assistant Police Chief Noble Wray said Friday at a news conference.

When asked if police thought it was all a hoax, Sgt. Jim Dexheimer said, "I don't like to use that word.

"I think by saying we don't believe there is a suspect, I think we're saying we don't believe there was an abduction," he added.

Wray cited inconsistencies in the 20-year-old University of Wisconsin honor student's story that led police to question her claim.

For example, Seiler told police that after taking her at knifepoint, her captor used duct tape, rope, cold medicine, a gun and a knife to keep her under his control.

Although those items were found in the marsh where she was found, buttressing her account, police obtained videotape Thursday that showed Seiler entering a store in Madison and buying those items, he said.

Also, during the time she said she was held captive, two witnesses reported having seen her apparently "walking freely" in different areas of the city, he said.

Someone used her computer during the time she was missing. Also, Wray said, the computer had been used to look up a five-day weather forecast and search for wooded areas in and around Madison.

Asked whether authorities were planning to press charges against Seiler, Wray said, "I think it's a little bit early for us to say that. We still need to talk to all the detectives."

The afternoon news conference followed by two hours another news conference in which Wray told reporters that Seiler had changed her story -- after authorities confronted her with the inconsistencies -- to say she was abducted not from her apartment but from a different part of the city.

A security camera recorded Seiler leaving her apartment early Saturday morning. She left her door open and did not take her coat and purse with her when she left the building, police said.

Dexheimer said Seiler did not contact police or file a report after she was found.

"We contacted her, and she then gave an explanation which we have some problems with it," he said.

"We're continuing to try to sort things out, but we've tried to be as clear as possible that we have serious problems with some of the things she said," Dexheimer said.

"But she's still a victim -- in terms of having disappeared for four days -- so I wouldn't call her a suspect at this point," Dexheimer said.

Over the next four days, hundreds of police, relatives and community members searched for her. Seiler was found Wednesday afternoon after a passer-by saw her in a marsh about two miles from campus and called police.

Seiler had said she did not know her abductor, whom she described as a white man in his late 20s or early 30s and about 6 feet tall, wearing a black sweatshirt, black cap and jeans.

Asked whether her actions represented a cry for help, Wray said, "It's difficult for me to speculate, in terms of what was her mental state or intent."

But he said he felt her comment to police, "I just want to be alone," was telling.

In February, Seiler told police she was attacked from behind and knocked unconscious while walking alone outside after midnight. She said she woke up behind a nearby building but wasn't robbed or otherwise hurt, police said. No one was arrested.

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