SANDUSKY, Ohio-- Police in Sandusky dispatched every available officer on Thursday to a Meigs Street address after getting two alarming phone calls saying a woman had been brutally killed.
The callers received messages from Micah Risner, 29, saying that he blacked out and when he awoke he found the gruesome scene. An accompanying photo appeared to show his girlfriend, Nataleigh Schlette, in a bathtub covered in blood.
"It looked very real. It looked like someone had been murdered or could have been self-inflicted. You don't know at the time, but if you look at the photo just getting it, it looks like a real crime scene incident," Sandusky Police Chief John Orzech said.
Police said they were told the photo was taken in a bathroom at the back of the house.
When officers responded, they started methodically going through the home concerned there might be a violent killer somewhere inside.
"You don't know what you are going to encounter going into a situation like that. That could have been very bad for them or you know, if there was a suspect in there and they came out shooting or with a knife to stab them or whatever the case may be. There are all kinds of scenarios that are running though the officers minds as this is playing out," Orzech said.
They found was Schlette coming down from the second floor with two children. She told them the photo had been a hoax.
Moments later, Risner came up from the basement and confirmed the scene was not real.
Police said the photo was sent to family members intending to get Risner's sister to come to the house.
"Apparently, the son (Risner) had sent it to a mom and the sister under the premise that the sister had apparently stolen money or allegedly stolen money from them. And so he thought that sending this picture on Facebook messenger would get their attention and she would come home because she wasn't at the house at the time," Orzech said.
A woman at the house on Friday told FOX 8 News that Risner was not there.
Risner posted an angry message to his public Facebook page with a shorthand message telling reporters to get out.
Risner and Schlette were both charged with inducing panic.
"They created a scenario in someone's mind that something really bad happened. The lesson for them is that they have to be accountable for their actions. And I can't imagine why someone would put their mother or sister in a situation like that that would cause that anxiety. What if they were driving and got in an accident on the way there just trying to get to help them out or to comfort them? It could have created such a more dangerous and volatile situation for everybody involved," Orzech said.