Missing girl claim a 'cruel hoax'
Father: 'I thought they were going to bring Shannon in here'
THORNTOWN, Indiana (CNN) -- Authorities say the woman who called the parents of a 6-year-old girl missing since 1986 was "the perpetrator of a cruel hoax."
The woman who claimed to be the now-grown girl has been identified as Donna L. Walker, 35, according to Indiana State Police 1st Sgt. Dave Bursten.
He said an arrest warrant has been issued charging Walker with felony identity deception and misdemeanor false reporting.
"We are seeking help from the public across the land to look for this woman," said Bursten, noting that her last known address was Topeka, Kansas.
"This has been a very cruel hoax for the family," Bursten told reporters, adding it has been "emotional, physically, mentally exhausted the immediate and extended family of Shannon Sherrill."
The girl's father, Mike Sherrill, said he took the news of the alleged hoax "real hard," breaking down in sobs while talking to reporters.
"I wasn't expecting this at all. When they called me with the information that we were going to have a news conference, I thought they were going to bring Shannon in here. I thought this was something," he said before covering his face and breaking into tears.
The father had learned just moments earlier that authorities had identified the claim as a hoax.
His ex-wife, Dorothy Sherrill, also attended the news conference, but did not speak.
Their daughter, Shannon, vanished from Thorntown on October 5, 1986, after last being seen playing with friends outside her home.
"It's been a very big roller coaster," said the girl's aunt, Jody Ames. "We've been up, we've been down, we've hoped for the best -- we're still hoping for the best. We just hope somebody will come forward and help us."
Authorities: Walker pulled similar hoaxes
Authorities said Walker not only called the parents, but telephoned members of the news media so the story would generate more publicity.
"The only good that may come out of this is to stir someone's conscience that knows true, valid information about the disappearance of Shannon," Bursten said.
"Hopefully they will be stirred to the point that they will contact the police department or the Indiana state police with information."
Authorities said the motive behind the alleged hoax was unclear, because Walker did not make any demands to police or family members.
They also said without elaboration that Walker has a history of carrying out similar hoaxes in the Virginia Beach, Virginia, area.
Authorities said Walker first contacted Dorothy Sherrill on July 26, claiming to be her daughter. Walker then called Mike Sherrill on Saturday, authorities said, adding they also had been in phone contact with her, most recently on Tuesday.
Authorities said Walker used three different names and three different voices in various phone calls to help corroborate her story. The phone calls were all made from the Midwest to western United States, authorities said.
"All of the names used by Walker have been determined to be fictitious or the names of other people who have no connection to this case," Bursten said.
Police in Topeka searched Walker's residence there but found no sign she had been there in recent days, authorities said.
Boone County prosecutor Todd Meyer vowed to prosecute the case "with the full extent of the law."
"I'm very sorry for what's happened to this family," Meyer said. "I want everybody to know that I will do my best to make sure that this woman is brought to justice here so that this is never done anywhere else in this country."