A mother who helped her daughter fake an essay about her father dying in Iraq to win Hannah Montana concert tickets has denied trying to fool anybody.
"We never said anything like this was a true story. Never. It was just an essay. We do essays all the time. You know, my daughter does essays at school all the time," Priscilla Ceballos said. "I never lied and said that the essay was a true story."
Ceballos' daughter, 6-year-old Alexis Menjivar, beat out 1,000 other girls from the Dallas area to win four tickets to a Hanna Montana concert in Albany, N.Y. Her essay began with the powerful line, "My daddy died this year in Iraq." The letter went on to say the girl would "give mommy the angel pendant that daddy put on mommy when she was having me."
The contest's sponsor, the girls' clothing and furniture store Club Libby Lu, has since given the tickets to another unnamed contestant.
"We regret that the original intent of the contest, which was to make a little girl's holiday extra special, has not been realized in the way we anticipated," Mary Drolet, the CEO of Club Libby Lu, told The Associated Press.
Ceballos insists, however, she was not trying to fool anyone and was surprised to find out the essay was released to the media.
"When Robin asked me — Robin with the Libby Lu — when she asked me, 'Is the essay a true story?' I told her, 'No, it's not a true story. It's just an essay,' And she said, 'I'm sorry but we were under the impression that it was true so we sent it to the media.'"
While some may understand the Ceballos' desperation to attain tickets to the hottest concerts to children and tweens, others believe her actions may have caused more harm to her daughter than if she hadn't won the tickets. Some questioned whether Ceballos went too far with the tall tale.
"There is enormous pressure on parents when there is an event like this to be the ones who get their kids the tickets," said "Good Morning America" parenting contributor Anne Pleshette Murphy.
"The reality is that's not what kids remember about their childhoods," Murphy added. "What matters to children is that you're there for them, that you are trustworthy. And of course a mother who is lying like this at some point this child is going to realize can't be trusted and that's going to be a tragedy."
Ceballos claimed a roadside bomb killed her daughter's father, who she said was named Sgt. Jonathon Menjivar, on April 17, but a reporter with ABC News affiliate WFAA confirmed with the Department of Defense records that no man by that name had ever served in the military or died in Iraq.
In fact, Ceballos' mother said her granddaughter's father was alive, living in another town and the mother passed off the essay as her 6-year-old daughter's writing.
Things began unraveling Friday when officials from Club Libby Lu surprised the child at a Garland, Texas, mall, 20 miles northeast of Dallas. The girl won a makeover, which included a blond Hannah Montana wig and the grand prize, which was airfare for four to the Jan. 9 sold-out concert.