Mayor calls naked couple's robbery story 'a very bad thing'

Murray (Source: Blogspot)
Murray (Source: Blogspot)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - As the frightening tale of two college students beaten, robbed and forced to strip came unraveled under police scrutiny, the mayor who had called to apologize to the couple responded once again.

"It's a very bad thing," said Charleston Mayor Joe Riley.

Charleston police arrested 19-year-old Penelope Jade Murray and issued a warrant for 21-year-old John Lawson Shafer for filing a false police report. Murray was released on a personal recognizance bond.

Shafer surrendered to police Thursday at noon, police spokesman Charles Francis said.

Riley said the entire ordeal was a negative reflection on an otherwise charming city, saying that hours of police time and taxpayer dollars were wasted on an investigation into a crime that never happened.

Murray is a student at the College of Charleston. Shafer attends Trident Technical College.

The pair alleged a black couple attacked them at Waterfront Park in downtown Charleston Nov. 23. In the couple's description of events, their assailants beat them, robbed them, forced them to strip and then threw them into Charleston harbor.

Murray and Shafer told police they waited in the water until they were sure their assailants had left the area. The two then walked naked and covered in mud to a nearby hotel on Vendue Range to call police.

Riley called the story "very unfortunate" because of the inclusion of black assailants, a piece of the story that has sparked racial misgivings on news websites in the Lowcountry.

Police would only say they determined through the course of their two-week investigation that the story was a lie. They also did not go into details on why the couple chose to create the story.

While police determined the story to be untrue, Murray has continued to blog about her alleged experience. In a Dec. 2 post, she writes, "I don't understand how and why people are so cruel."

The couple was scheduled to make their first court appearance Friday. Murray qualified for a public defender, and will have a second hearing Dec. 28. Shafer was not present in court Friday morning, but is being represented by Virginia Murray of the Save and Savage Law firm.

Penelope Murray has not returned any phone calls requesting comment to date. Shafer's mother said her son would not be speaking to media.

Riley did not say what he thought should happen to the couple.

"It's not to be taken lightly," Riley said. "It's a very serious matter."

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