Members of an Ohio community who gave money to help pay for a 7-year-old girl's chemotherapy treatments are furious now that police say the child never had leukemia at all — her mother allegedly made up the story in order to collect some cash.
Teresa Milbrandt, of Urbana, Ohio, received at least $10,000 in donations from businesses and residents, police estimate. They say they don't know what she did with the money.
Police say Milbrandt shaved her daughter's head, gave her sleeping pills and put a bandage on her back that was supposed to be a "port" for chemotherapy, all to make it seem as if young Hannah was undergoing treatment.
Milbrandt allegedly admitted the hoax this week to the Champaign County Department of Job and Family Services. Gary Kimpel of the Urbana Police Department said the agency was notified after employees at Hannah's school noticed that the girl's hair was not falling out, but appeared to have been cut or shaved.
"She said it started as a white lie that got out of control, was her explanation," Kimpel said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.
Dad Says He Thought Daughter Was Dying
The 35-year-old mother has not been charged by police, who said the hoax has been going on since at least April. Police say they are investigating both of the girl's parents. Hannah has been placed with relatives.
Milbrandt's husband, Robert, said that neither he nor Hannah knew about the alleged hoax, and that he had taken his wife to a nearby mental hospital.
The father has said he believed the girl was dying until authorities told him it was a lie. He told the Springfield News-Sun he never suspected anything because his wife usually took their daughter to Dayton for what she said were cancer treatments. He says his daughter does have a blood disorder that requires quarterly checkups.
Kimpel said Milbrandt, who has not yet made herself available to the police, also told the county agency that she would tell Hannah they were going to the doctor, put the girl in the car and drive until the child fell asleep and then return home.
"She [Hannah] would fall asleep and then she would wake up later and the mother would tell her that she had been to her chemo treatments," Kimpel said on Good Morning America.
Authorities have already collected coffee cans placed at businesses to seek donations that would supposedly go toward treatment. Police also found fliers with photos of the girl inviting people to fund-raisers.
Hannah Asked Santa to Save Her
Julie Urquhart says she befriended the Milbrandt family and helped raise a lot of money for Hannah's treatments. Urquhart said she was heartbroken when she found out it had been a lie, because she knew Hannah believed that she was dying, too.
"She herself thought she was dying," Urquhart said. "She [Hannah] asked Santa for Christmas, told him she didn't want to die for Christmas," Urquhart said.
Now Urquhart says she and others who were scammed feel violated and angry.
"I think that's the best outcome of all of it is that little Hannah isn't sick and she's not going to die," Urquhart said.